Louisville’s First 3D Mammogram: Seeing Breast Tissue in a Way Never Before Possible

By Art McLaughlin, M.D.

3D Digital Breast Tomosynthesis is the most exciting advancement in breast cancer detection in 30 years. Now it’s available in Louisville at Women’s Diagnostic Center…and now breast cancer has nowhere to hide.

For decades, doctors, like me,  have been searching for a technology to find very small cancers and reduce the number of “false positives” when women are called back for diagnostic testing following a suspicious mammogram. This search lead to the development of digital tomosynthesis, an FDA-approved breast cancer screening technology that produces a series of one millimeter thick images viewed as a 3-dimensional reconstruction of the breast. With a 3D mammogram, radiologists can see breast tissue in a way never before possible. Instead of viewing all the complexities of your breast in a flat image, the doctor can see fine individual details more clearly, no longer hidden by overlapping tissue.

In fact, by bringing digital tomosynthesis to Louisville, we can detect breast cancer that some conventional digital mammograms miss. One in eight women will develop breast cancer and if we can find it early, the 5-year survival rate is 97%. Our goal with 3D mammography is to offer early detection even earlier. It’s quick, specifically designed for patient comfort, and unquestionably the best tool available in the fight against breast cancer.

The enhanced visualization that 3D mammography provides translates into specific, important benefits for patients including:

Easier detection
Diagnostic Radiologists, like me,  can carefully go through each one millimeter layer of compiled 3D breast tissue images to more accurately screen for and pinpoint the size, shape, and location of potential breast cancers.

Earlier detection
Physicians can detect smaller tumors sooner at the earliest stages of breast cancer. Breast cancers caught in initial stages are less likely to require extensive surgery or chemotherapy and more likely to have a positive outcome.


Fewer false alarms
With more clear and precise full breast images, radiologists can better distinguish harmless abnormalities from real tumors which translates to less anxiety for patients and lower out-of-pocket costs for diagnostic testing.


To create the best screening tool in the fight against breast cancer, women can elect to combine 2D and 3D screening. When used with 2D digital mammography, clinical studies show that 3D tomosynthesis is superior to 2D digital mammography alone.  Many early stage tumors that cannot be detected via 2D mammography can be seen with 3D technology.


Early 3D data shows a 15% increase in cancer detection and a 30% reduction in recalls for additional testing.

Since the breast is often composed of pockets of dense tissue surrounded by fat, a flat 2D mammogram image may be obscured when x-rayed. The overlapping tissue in the image could result in difficulty viewing tiny spots called microcalcifications as well as other subtle signs of early cancer. A 3D mammogram allows us to examine breast tissue one layer at a time. Details are more visible and no longer hidden by surrounding tissue.

While more detailed imagery offered by 3D mammograms benefits every woman regardless of breast type, it plays a critical role for patients with dense breast tissue. Approximately 75% of women in their forties have dense breasts which puts them at higher risk for developing breast cancer. This percentage typically decreases with age, although close to half of all women in their sixties still have dense breast tissue. 3D mammography helps detect cancer earlier and more effectively than traditional mammography for women with dense breasts. A patient can learn if her breasts are dense by asking her physician or professional who performs her routine mammogram.

3D mammography is very similar to a traditional mammogram. The breast will be under compression while an x-ray arm, ergonomically designed for greater comfort, makes a quick arc taking images at several angles. Very low x-ray energy is used so radiation exposure is safely below ACR guidelines. The process takes only a few seconds after which the images are electronically sent to our doctors. Every patient at Women’s Diagnostic Center has the opportunity to meet with a physician and discuss her mammogram results the same day.

Same-day results avoid delays in setting up an action plan when further study is needed. 3D mammograms may be used alone or in conjunction with a 2D mammogram to capture more images.

For questions or more information about 3D mammography, contact Women’s Diagnostic Center at 893-1333 or visit womensdiagnosticcenter.com. Women’s Diagnostic Center is certified this region’s only independent Breast Imaging Center of Excellence.  The center offers comprehensive breast care including 2D digital mammography, 3D tomosynthesis mammography, breast ultrasound, ultrasound guided biopsy, stereotactic biopsy, ultrasound guided cyst aspiration, and bone density scanning and are located at 4004 DuPont Circle, Ste 230, Louisville, KY 40207.

Image from: www.saratogahospital.org/services/diagnostictesting/imagingradiology/mammography

Art McLaughlin, M.D., is the  Medical Director and CEO of Women’s Diagnostic Center. Dr. McLaughlin is Board Certified in Diagnostic Radiology. 

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