Last week, we told how early detection can impact diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. This week, we take a closer look at one of the early detection methods: Mammograms. Our Iris St. Meran shows us how the technology has evolved and introduces us to new tools doctors are beginning to use to identify the disease.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Age 40 is when most women begin to get mammograms. For years, this has been the first line of screening for breast cancer. But recently, the conventional method has evolved and some doctors are now using 3-D mammogram devices.
Crouse Breast Health Center Breast Imaging Director Dr. Stephen Montgomery explained, "Think about it like a mini CAT scan of the breast. Because that in essence is what it is."
Montgomery started using the device at Crouse Breast Health Center earlier this year. The conventional or 2-D method, he says, is still widely used. But Montgomery says he couldn't believe the difference when he first saw the new device used at conferences.
"It allows you to identify small lesions in the breasts you really could not otherwise find," Montgomery added.
That is illustrated a 2-D image Montgomery shared.
"When you first look at this, it appears normal. I don't readily identify any abnormality in this case. And when we turn on the 3-Dimensional image, you can see right here, this is a little tumor," he described.
Dr. Montgomery said women who've already had a 2-D mammography won't much difference in the new technology. He says the compression is about the same and it's just a few seconds longer.
With this device there is more radiation, but Crouse recently purchased software to make the dose the same as the traditional way. Montgomery says this technology benefits all patients, but more so ones with dense breasts.
The process, also known as Tomosynthesis, is not cheap. A machine costs about a half-million dollars. Which is why it's not everywhere yet, but in the next few years, it's expected to be. Montgomery stresses, even if your health care provider doesn't have it, you should still get screened.
"Studies have shown that in New York State, only half the women are screened who are eligible to be screened. That's a big issue. Whether you get a 2-D or 3-D almost doesn't matter if you don't get anything,” Montgomery urged. “So my message is go get screened."
Crouse Breast Health Center has one 3-D Mammography machine. Upstate University Hospital also has the new technology.