3D vs. 2D Mammography


What is the difference between 3D and 2D mammograms?

One of the latest innovations in women’s health care, three-dimensional breast mammography (3D mammography), allows Ballad Health breast centers to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages.

Traditional 2D mammography could only take a single image in two directions, which causes two limitations. With conventional two-dimensional mammograms, breast cancers can be missed because they’re sometimes hidden behind normal breast tissue.

Another problem is that normal breast tissues can overlap (or superimpose) one another. This creates what radiologists call a summation shadow in a 2D image. Though it isn’t a cancer, this “shadow” can look like cancer. The effect is similar to the way the words on one side of a page appear superimposed over the words on the back of the page when you hold it up to a light.

Unfortunately, seeing that shadow can mean further, unnecessary diagnostic testing.

How is 3D better?

A clearer, easier to read image

For 3D mammography – which is also called 3D digital breast tomosynthesis or tomography (DBT) – a short X-ray sweep across the breast is used to create an image of the whole breast. The image is designed to separate the tissues and reduce the overlapping tissues that can result in false positive readings.

In fact, 3D mammograms allow the radiologist to take multiple pictures of each breast from various angles. This just isn’t possible with a traditional 2D mammogram, which takes a single image in two directions.

What’s the bottom line with 3D?

3D mammograms improve cancer detection rates.

Three-dimensional digital mammography improves early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. And this helps us put an even greater emphasis on your wellbeing as a patient.

3D mammography provides:

  • Clearer images – Multiple images throughout the breast allows the radiologist see abnormalities in dense breast tissue that may otherwise go undetected.
  • Greater confidence – By helping your doctor see around and between breast tissues, which is difficult with 2D technology. This way, 3D mammograms remove the visual “clutter” to make a mammogram easier to read in women of all breast tissue types.
  • Fewer false positives – Together, this enhanced clarity and confidence mean overlapping normal tissue (that might look abnormal in 2D imaging and mistakenly identified as breast cancer) can be more easily seen as normal with 3D mammography.
  • One exam for most women, including those with dense breasts – 3D mammography can be used for screening those with any type of breast, including the 40% of women with dense breasts. For them, tumors can be obscured in a 2D mammogram by dense tissues, which makes detecting cancer more challenging.

How are 2D and 3D mammography similar?

In addition to being unique in some important ways, 3D mammography is similar to 2D in some important ways.

Same comfort level

The position of the breast in 3D tomosynthesis is identical to 2D, which means the examination is no less comfortable.

Image positions

Images are obtained from the same positions as a traditional 2D mammogram.

Why choose Ballad Health breast centers?

ACR accredited for your peace of mind

Ballad Health offers fully accredited breast centers, some of which have been named Breast Imaging Centers of Excellence by the American College of Radiology.

Experienced teams

Our Centers have experienced staffs and knowledgeable physicians geared to offer the best possible experience.

Comfort and convenience

In one convenient, spa-like facility, you can have access to:

  • Expert physicians
  • Advanced technology, including 3D mammography
  • Unmatched support for any breast health need – from prevention and screening to detection, treatment and survivorship

Have questions about mammography?

Learn more about mammograms at Ballad Health here.

Schedule an appointment today

If you’re a current Ballad Health patient, it’s easier than ever to make a screening mammogram appointment on the Ballad Health app through your MyChart account. For new patients, call 1‑833‑8‑BALLAD.