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3D Mammography a 'Game-Changer'
By Lois Thomson

3D MammographyTomosynthesis, or 3D mammography, is a cutting-edge technology to be used in women who are undergoing screening or diagnostic mammography. It is now available exclusively in Washington County at Washington Health System. Dr. Giovanna Aracri, section chief of women's imaging, couldn't be happier. "It's fantastic, it's a game-changer in mammography," she stated. Dr. Aracri, one of the women's imagers, explained the difference and the benefits of the new technology: "The standard mammogram typically has four views. In contrast, the 3D obtains multiple images throughout the breast at different angles. The analogy is like viewing a deck of cards. The 2D mammography is looking at the deck, whereas the tomosynthesis or 3D imaging actually separates the cards so you can see each individual card."

The benefit, according to Dr. Aracri, is that the 3D imaging improves the imaging through dense tissue that would rarely be possible with standard mammography. It has been demonstrated to have picked up cancers that wouldn't have been noticed before in the 2D mammogram. In conjunction with the 2D mammogram, tomosynthesis is capable of detecting invasive cancers at a 40 percent higher rate. "Moving forward, it's going to decrease our callback rates. This tool will help us have the extra views that we need. In addition, It will decrease the anxiety of patients as callbacks will be fewer," Dr. Aracri stated.

Michelle McIlvaine, who is the manager of the women's center, stated the 2D and the 3D images are obtained at basically the same time. "That's always a concern I get from the patients – 'Am I going to get compressed two times?' – and it's a valid concern. But the answer is no."

With the advanced technology in 3D, why is it still necessary to have both screenings? Dr. Aracri explained, "2D mammography is still the gold standard in breast imaging at this time. However, that may change in the future." She went on to state that an asymmetry in 2D mammography may get better visualized on tomosynthesis. "2D mammograms give a general overview and allow us to compare prior 2D studies for stability. Tomosynthesis allows us to view images as slices, creating a better and more detailed image of the breast."

Dr. Aracri acknowledged the new technology has a learning curve. "It probably takes the radiologists two to three times longer to read it, but we are willing to take the work on because it's best for the patients." Dr. Giovanna Aracri and Dr. Dina Novitskaya, are Fellowship-trained in women's imaging from Magee Women's Hospital. They are joined by Dr. Michelle Kirshen and Dr. David Leukhardt at the women's center reading these studies.

McIlvaine concluded, "From the patients' side, they don't really notice any of the differences of 2D and 3D. It's the quality and the outcome that are the true benefit."

For more information, call (724) 223-3313 or visit www.whs.org.

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