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Johns Hopkins Health - Mammography in 3-D

Fall 2013
Issue No. 22

Mammography in 3-D

Date: October 15, 2013

Advanced technology identifies breast cancer earlier and more accurately

3-D Mammography
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A new, 3-D mammogram has been shown to improve the chances of detecting small, early stage breast cancers in women, especially those who have dense breasts—a common characteristic in which a high proportion of the breast is glandular rather than fatty.

“Dense breast tissue decreases the sensitivity of standard digital mammography. This means our ability to identify a breast cancer is limited. Additionally, dense tissue can mimic abnormalities, leading to more false alarms or false-positive findings,” says Susan Harvey, M.D., director of breast imaging at Johns Hopkins. “We also know that breast density itself is a risk factor for breast cancer.”

To address the issue, some breast imaging centers now use 3-D imaging, or tomosynthesis, to examine 1-millimeter “slices” of tissue, Harvey says, allowing them to see the breast in much greater detail. The overlap of tissues is resolved and cancers are seen more readily.

“Several studies show the false-positives decrease by 40 percent. And the cancer detection rate increases,” she says. “In a large screening study in Europe, cancer detection increased by 40 percent, and in the United States, one study showed over a 50 percent increase in detection of invasive cancers.”

A Johns Hopkins Expert Explains
Watch as Susan Harvey, M.D., director of breast imaging at Johns Hopkins, explains 3-D mammography and discusses the benefits of this new breast cancer screening tool. Visit


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