Mammography is the primary screening test for breast cancer in women with no known breast problems. Conventional mammograms are performed by taking 2D pictures of the breast. 3D mammograms and molecular breast imaging (MBI) are advanced imaging techniques that improve the detection and treatment of breast cancer.
“Basic screening mammograms decrease mortality, but they aren’t perfect,” said Dr. Kristie Guite, a Marshfield Clinic radiologist who specializes in mammography.
Breast imaging technology available at Marshfield Clinic Health System makes it possible to find cancer more easily so women have a better chance of recovery.
3D mammograms recommended for all women
3D mammograms are performed at the same time as traditional 2D mammograms. It takes only a few extra seconds to capture the additional image.
“Looking at smaller sections of breast tissue allows us to more easily detect breast cancer in all women, but even more so in women younger than 50 and women with dense breast tissue,” Guite said. “3D mammograms allow us to detect breast cancer when it’s smaller, in an earlier stage and easier to treat.”
Fewer false positives
About 10 percent of women get called back for more imaging after basic screening mammograms. Although 99 percent of patients who return for imaging don’t have cancer or a breast abnormality, the experience is stressful.
“3D imaging reduces the number of patients who have to come back for additional imaging by 40 percent,” Guite said. “It saves them from having to go through the anxiety of more testing.”
Molecular breast imaging (MBI) finds more cancers
MBI involves injecting a small amount of radioactive material into the bloodstream. Cancer cells in the breast take up more of the radioactive material than normal breast tissue, which allows doctors to locate small tumors.
“It finds two to three times as many cancers than regular or 3D mammography,” Guite said. “The likelihood of missing a breast cancer is almost none.”
MBI isn’t a replacement for mammography, and not all patients need it, she said. Women who have dense breast tissue, family history of breast cancer or personal history of non-cancerous breast tissue biopsies are ideal candidates for MBI.
Doctors use molecular imaging to check effectiveness of chemotherapy, develop surgical plans and scan patients who are unable to have a breast MRI.
Ask about insurance coverage
Medicare provides coverage for 3D mammograms. If you have other insurance or have MBI scheduled, ask your insurance carrier about coverage prior to your appointment.
A Marshfield Clinic Patient Financial Services representative can provide a fee estimate for MBI.
All Marketplace health plans must cover basic screening mammograms.