Revolutionizing Breast Health Close to Home

3D mammography and Novant Health UVA Health System

Each October, we celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month. From athletes donning pink cleats on the field, to grocery stores switching to pink bags for the month, we’re surrounded by reminders of the importance of breast health.

At Novant Health UVA Health System, the commitment to expanding breast health services and awareness of the importance of mammograms is year-round. This commitment is evidenced by the system’s recent investment in 3D mammography at Novant Health UVA Health System Prince William Medical Center, available for scheduling in October. This life saving technology is already in place at Novant Health UVA Health System Haymarket Medical Center and Novant Health UVA Health System Culpeper Medical Center to support early detection of breast cancer for women throughout the region.

What is 3D mammography?
Currently an optional service that is elected by the patient, 3D mammography is state-of-the-art technology that allows radiologists to view inside a woman’s breast, layer by layer. By minimizing overlapping tissue, radiologists can see fine details more clearly, resulting in earlier detection, better visualization and fewer callbacks for patients.

Dedicated breast radiologists
Novant Health UVA Health System offers experienced, highly-trained breast radiologists on site to read every mammogram providing patients with the highest quality reporting. “Having a fellowship trained radiologist read your mammogram is just as important as having one done,” said Dr. John Williams, a breast surgeon and medical director of the Novant Health UVA Health System Breast Center. “The addition of UVA fellowship trained and experienced breast radiologists has been a fantastic addition to our imaging and breast center services.” 

“Working with a highly-trained radiologist means not only peace of mind for patients, but more quality results. Women awaiting mammography results don’t want any guesswork when it comes to analyzing the imaging. They want results they can trust, we’re seeing fewer errors as technology continues to advance.”

Benefits of 3D mammography
The 3D mammogram takes a typical mammogram to the next level, compiling multiple low-dose images, called “slices,” of the breast acquired at various angles. To get these, an X-ray arm sweeps over the breast in a slight arc and captures slices one-millimeter at a time. Although technically a separate procedure, 3D images are done simultaneously with a regular mammogram. A patient’s breasts are in compression about six seconds longer per angle as images are captured.

Let’s be honest, no woman wants to prolong the discomfort of a mammogram, but the benefits are worth the slightly longer procedure. Those benefits include:

  • Earlier Detection. By minimizing the impact of overlapping breast tissue, 3D mammography helps physicians detect signs of breast cancer earlier than ever before. Radiologists expect to see up to a 30 percent increase in detection.
  • Fewer Callbacks. This technology helps to distinguish harmless abnormalities from real cancers, which leads to 20-30 percent fewer callbacks and less anxiety for women.
  • Better Visualization. Another huge benefit of 3D technology is that it provides radiologists with better visualization to see the size, shape and location of abnormal tissue.

The Ideal Candidates

Women with dense breast tissue, younger women ages 40-49 and women at “high risk” for developing breast cancer due to family history are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this advanced technology. However, Williams recommends that all women, regardless of age, history or breast size, get a 3D mammogram in conjunction with their annual traditional 2D mammogram.

“Early detection provides the greatest chance for finding curable breast cancers, and the best chance for early detection is through use of 3D mammography. It’s truly an important component of the screening process,” said Williams.

Despite its many benefits, 3D mammography is still an optional service, but gaining ground to become common practice as part of a comprehensive breast health screening. Since this technology was approved by the FDA in 2011, millions of patients have left the dreaded mammogram appointment with added confidence in their testing.

Women should consult with their ordering physician about a 3D mammogram prior to scheduling and visiting Novant Health UVA Health System medical centers for breast health screening. Many insurance companies do cover the 3D portion of the mammogram, but it is billed separately from the 2D portion of the exam.

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