Radiology | Digital Mammography

Medical Specialties: Radiology

Digital Mammography

Trinity Health is proud to have been the first breast imaging center in North Dakota to offer full-field digital mammography. Trinity Health has two digital mammography machines, both located in the Breast Imaging Center at Health Center-Medical Arts. Trinity continues to be a leader in early breast cancer detection by offering a full range of breast imaging services. In addition to screening mammography, Trinity Health also offers diagnostic, or problem-solving, mammograms. A radiologist reviews the images as they are being performed and directs the technologist to perform any additional images necessary for a complete diagnosis. To further enhance breast cancer detection Trinity Health also offers breast ultrasound and breast MRI, as well as digital stereotactic-guided vacuum-assisted breast biopsy. Ultrasound-guided needle biopsy and MRI-guided breast biopsies can also be performed, if that is the best approach.

On a regional level Trinity Health supports a mobile digital mammography unit. This outreach program travels thousands of miles every year to smaller communities in our region. The mammography coach is also equipped with a high-quality digital mammography machine. The images are interpreted by the Trinity radiologists and are stored in the Trinity Health electronic medical records system. These images are viewable at any time by the patient’s Trinity physician.

Introducing 3D Tomosynthesis

Since early August, radiologists at Trinity Health have found the perceived benefits in 3-D mammography to be warranted.

“This is the best technology there is, as far as mammography goes,” said Connie Busch, RT(R), coordinator of Trinity’s Breast Imaging Center, about Wide-Angle True Breast Tomosynthesis, the most up-to-date 3-dimensional breast imaging system on the market. “This technology is really going to shine. We are going to find those cancers that would have been missed because of dense breast tissue.”

What exactly is dense breast tissue? Dense breast tissue is a more solid area and harder to see through in mammography image, while fatty breast tissue is easy to see through, thus cancer cannot hide in this form of tissue.

Dense or fatty breast tissue is not something that can be determined by touch or looks alone, Busch explained. “You can’t feel the breast or physically look at it and know the structure,” she said. “It is determined by how it looks on the breast image performed during the mammogram.” According to Busch, age and genetics usually play a part in the makeup of the breast.

“In general, the younger women – women that have not gone through menopause – tend to have more dense breast structure because of the milk producing glands and all of the connective tissue that holds the glands together,” she said. “As they age, the tissue starts to disappear and, as time goes on, the breasts get fattier.”

However, depending on genetics, the tissue will stay dense for some women. (Busch noted that those genes usually come from the maternal, or mother’s side.)

The 3-D mammography is recommended for women who either have dense breast tissue or are unfamiliar with whether they have dense of fatty breast tissue. Alternatively, women who know they have fatty breast tissue or those who cannot physically tolerate the 3-D mammography process – of the four images needed, each exposure requires the breast to be compressed for 25 to 35 seconds (in comparison to the two to three seconds for 2-D mammography) – may not be imaged with this new technology.

Before the creation of 3-D mammography, 2-D digital mammograms were used; while effective, it did not catch everything immediately. “If a patient had something that was possibly abnormal, they would have had additional mammogram pictures or other imaging modalities, such as an ultrasound. An abnormality would have to be identified on the mammogram.”

Busch also noted that 3-D technology may eliminate the need for women to return for additional imaging of an indeterminate area in their mammogram. Patients are sometimes called back for additional imaging to double check a questionable image; 3-D mammography will help clarify this. “This will eliminate a few of those, as the original study (using 3-D) will give radiologists all the info they need,” Busch said.

Based on the number of women we have tested in a month’s time, “we’re going to see a benefit in finding cancers earlier that would have been overlooked if they had just did 2-D mammography,” Busch added.

Patients who wish to have a mammography should schedule an appointment by calling Trinity Health’s Radiology department at 857-2640. Additional questions can also be addressed to your general physician.

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