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Is A 3D Mammogram Better Than A Regular Mammogram?


Breast tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography, is a breast imaging procedure in which an X-ray moves in an arc over the breasts as the imaging specialist compresses the breasts to take several images from different angles. It’s similar to a traditional 2D mammogram but captures more photos in greater detail. Since its introduction to medical imaging, it has made notable improvements in detecting early breast cancers, decreasing call-back numbers for further exams, and more.

How Is A 3D Mammogram Different From A Traditional Mammogram?

3D mammography converts a stack of thin, 1-millimeter digital breast images into a 3-dimensional mammogram. According to Cynthia A. Litwer, MD, chief of breast imaging at Cedars-Sinai, the radiologist’s ability to review about 200-300 images with 3D mammography makes it easier to see tumors hidden by breast tissue than 2D mammography, which only provides four images.

As they are more complex and provide deeper detail than 2D mammograms, 3D mammograms tend to take more physician time to interpret the images. Some facilities limit 3D mammography to patients they view as high-risk or who may have existing findings or symptoms.

Is A 3D Mammogram Better Than A Regular Mammogram?

As 2D mammograms only provide two images of each breast, they may cause your radiologist to overlook potentially cancerous tissue camouflaged by overlapping breast tissue above and below. A 3D mammography, on the other hand, obtains hundreds of X-ray images of the breasts, from the top down to the sides.

A 3D mammogram has a primary advantage over a 2D mammogram: it separates the overlapping tissues, preventing any abnormalities from being blocked from view by other breast tissue and making it easier to spot potentially cancerous masses.

We prefer digital breast tomosynthesis here at Little Silver Mammography and HerSpace, as the hundreds of thin slices allow us to separate the normal from the abnormal much more effectively than with traditional mammograms. Due to our preference for 3D mammography, we’re more efficient at detecting abnormalities and have much lower call-back rates than screening centers only offering 2D mammography.

According to Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, research shows that 3D technology for breast cancer screening can detect up to 40% more cancers than 2D technology.

Since 3D mammography takes a much higher number of thin-sliced images of the breasts, it covers up any dense breast tissue or fat that makes it difficult to see tiny masses known as microcalcifications, along with other subtle signs of early cancer. By catching cancers earlier, the 3D exam gives women more treatment options and better outcomes.

What’s It Like to Have A 3D Mammogram Vs. A 2D Mammogram?

A breast tomosynthesis exam is very similar to a traditional mammogram. The technologist positions you, compresses your breast under a paddle, and takes images from different angles. The main difference is that during a 3D mammogram, several are taken from the top of the breasts down to the sides in an arc motion. Completion may take slightly longer than a 2D mammogram.

What Are The Benefits Of A 3D Mammogram?

According to, several studies, including research from “Mammographic Screening in Routine Practice: Multisite Study of Digital Breast Tomosynthesis and Digital Mammography Screenings” have shown that 3D mammograms detect more cancers than 2D mammograms and have a smaller number of false positives. 

When a mammogram highlights an abnormality that appears to be cancerous but turns out to be benign, this is considered a false positive. These are much more common with 2D mammograms than 3D mammograms, causing inconveniences to the patient, including follow-up appointments with multiple doctors, extra screenings, and possibly even a biopsy. False positives also cause a lot of psychological stress to the patient, as the anxiety of knowing you may have cancer can be an emotional rollercoaster.

Advantages of 3D mammography include:

  • Increases the ability to detect abnormalities
  • Finds more breast cancers than a 2D mammogram
  • Reduces the likelihood of false positives
  • Reduces the need for follow-up screenings
  • Detects breast cancer in dense breast tissue more efficiently than a 2D mammogram

Who Would Benefit From A 3D Mammogram?

A 3D mammogram can be a helpful tool for any woman requiring an accurate breast screening. In fact, at Little Silver Mammography and HerSpace, we recommend all our patients benefit from 3D mammography, starting with their first visit.

Does Insurance Cover A 3D Mammogram?

Today, 3D mammography is covered by most insurance plans just as a 2D mammogram is, but not all insurance companies provide coverage as an annual breast cancer screening. We recommend asking your doctor to contact your insurance company to find out the coverage they may offer.

What Happens If A 3D Mammogram Finds An Abnormality?

If anything is found on tomosynthesis that your doctor finds concerning, they will likely recommend one of the following follow-up screenings for further diagnosis: 

Schedule Your New Jersey Breast Imaging Appointment

Whether your doctor recommends you start getting your annual breast exams because of your age or risk, or you feel it’s time for a checkup, we’re here to help at Little Silver Mammography and HerSpace. Our NJ breast imagers can quickly and safely get you the answers you need to live the long, healthy life you deserve. Reach out today to schedule your appointment with us!