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Breast Imaging - Mammography

A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breasts. It is used to detect tumors and cysts and to help differentiate between benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) growths. It is the most effective way of detecting breast cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage. 

CAD is a "computer assisted diagnosis". The technology provides a digital mammographic image that is accessed on a computer screen. The software then searches for abnormal areas of density, mass, or calcification that may indicate the presence of cancer. The CAD system highlights these areas on the image, alerting the radiologist to the need for further analysis. At Virginia Hospital Center, CAD and digital mammography technology work together to provide a more accurate, less cumbersome approach to cancer detection and diagnosis.

3D mammography - the latest in breast cancer screening

3D mammography (breast tomosynthesis) is a revolutionary new screening tool for breast cancer detection. 3D mammography complements the standard digital mammogram and is performed at the same time with the same system. There is no additional compression required, and it takes only a few more seconds longer for each view. During the 3D part of the exam, the X-ray arm sweeps in a slight arc over your breast, taking multiple breast images. Then a computer converts the digital breast pictures into a stack of very thin layers or slices. The radiologist is able to review the reconstruction, one thin slice at a time, almost like turning pages in a book. This makes it easier for doctors to see if there's anything to be concerned about, and there is less chance for cancer to hide behind overlapping tissue.

Virginia Hospital Center now offers this newest test.

For more information about 3D mammography, please click on the links below to expand or collapse.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

  • Women over age 20 should be aware of the warning signs and risk factors for breast cancer
  • The American Cancer Society recommends a mammogram screening every year for all women age 40 and older.

Who can have a 3D mammogram exam?

3D mammography is now available as a voluntary addition to traditional mammography for patients having either screening or diagnostic comprehensive exams. It is helpful for all women who would be undergoing a standard mammogram regardless of age, breast density, or family history.

What are the risks?

Just as with conventional mammography, the 3D mammogram uses very low doses of x-rays. The amount of radiation exposure is safe below the guidelines approved by the American College of Radiology and the FDA.

Do I need a physician referral for a 3D mammogram?

You will need a referral from your physician to schedule a conventional mammogram, but your doctor does not have to specifically order the 3D mammogram. If you are interested in having a 3D mammogram, please notify the scheduler when you call to make an appointment.

Can I choose not to have this exam?

You do not have to have this exam. You can decide if you would like to have it done or not. If you choose not to, you will still receive a standard digital mammogram.

Will my insurance cover the costs?

Because this technology is new, at this time insurance does not cover the 3D portion of the mammogram. The standard 2D portion of the exam is billed to your insurance as usual.

What is the cost of a 3D mammogram?

The cost is $50; payable at the time of service, either by check or credit card.

To read more about early detection of breast cancer, click here.

Breast Cancer Screening for Women with Dense Breasts

Mammograms have saved countless lives, but they can have their limitations, especially for women with dense breasts. Read more

Is it Time for Your Annual Mammogram?
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