Comparing Breast Imaging Tools

From Mayo Clinic News Network
Mayo Clinic News Network

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The Mayo clinic takes a look at some of the breast imaging tests currently available and which one may be the best option for you.

Mayo Clinic News Network

Dear Mayo Clinic: After a recent mammogram, my doctor suggested an additional test. She recommended molecular breast imaging, but, when I got to the appointment, I was scheduled for 3-D imaging. What is the difference between the two? Is one more accurate than the other at detecting breast cancer?

A: Both molecular breast imaging and a 3-D mammogram, also called tomosynthesis, can help doctors see inside the breast more clearly than they can with standard mammography. But the two tests are different in the way they image the breasts.

Tomosynthesis is an anatomic test. That means cancer is seen based on changes in how the breast anatomy looks. Getting a tomosynthesis feels the same as getting a standard mammogram. Your breast is compressed, and X-rays pass through the breast to make pictures of your breast tissue.

However, rather than an image that is formed from pictures taken from top to bottom and side to side, like a conventional, two-dimensional mammogram, a 3-D mammogram takes multiple thin pictures of the breast. With the 3-D approach, the breast tissue can be analyzed layer by layer. This reduces overlapping tissue, which is a common reason women are brought back for extra pictures after a standard screening mammogram.

Research shows tomosynthesis can detect more breast cancers than standard mammography. It’s useful for women with dense breast tissue, because the thin pictures can make a cancer easier to see through the dense breast tissue.

Molecular breast imaging also has been shown to be valuable for women with dense breast tissue. Molecular breast imaging, when combined with a standard mammogram, detects more breast cancers in women with dense breast tissue than a mammogram alone.

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