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3-D Mammography

Breast Care

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If you’ve ever heard after an initial mammogram, “We’ll need you to come back for more images,” you may be among the 50 percent of women with dense or fibrous breast tissue. This makes it harder for radiologists to distinguish cancer from harmless abnormalities in breast images. Conventional mammograms can pick up 95 percent of cancers in fatty tissue. That number drops to 60 percent with dense breast tissue. That means conventional mammograms may miss 40 percent of cancers in women with dense breast tissue.

3-D mammography A new kind of mammography called tomosynthesis (toh-moh-SIN-thah-sis), or 3-D mammography, overcomes this challenge by capturing multiple images to create a 3-D image of your breast.

3-D mammography:

  • Offers exceptionally sharp breast images
  • Delivers superior screening and diagnostic images
  • Gives radiologists the ability to identify and characterize individual breast structures without the confusion of overlapping tissue.
  • Provides greater diagnostic accuracy, especially if you have dense breast tissue
  • Enhanced ability to detect cancer earlier when the chances for cure are highest
  • Results in fewer call backs for additional imaging


The Saint Luke’s was the first center in the Kansas City metropolitan area to offer 3-D mammograms for breast cancer screening. The following locations offer 3-D mammograms:

  • Saint Luke's Hospital Breast Center
  • Saint Luke's East Hospital Breast Center
  • Saint Luke's Multispecialty Clinic–Blue Springs
  • Saint Luke's North Hospital–Barry Road
  • Saint Luke's South Hospital Goppert Breast Center
  • Saint Luke's Cushing Hospital
  • Anderson County Hospital
  • Hedrick Medical Center
  • Wright Memorial Hospital

Patient experience

From a patient experience, having a 3-D scan is just like a traditional 2-D mammogram. A technologist compresses your breasts and takes two views of each. The difference is an X-ray arm makes a quick arc over the breast, taking low-dose images from multiple angles. This adds about four seconds for each view, but the information payoff is huge: Each view yields 50 images instead of one. These images are then used to produce a series of one-millimeter thick slices that can be viewed as a 3-D picture of the breast. A 3-D mammogram reveals approximately 100 images of each breast on average, or 200 total images for both breasts.

With a 3-D image, radiologists can view breast tissue in individual slices only one millimeter thick. This makes it harder for abnormalities to hide. A lesion or cancer invisible in one slice might show up in another based on the angle of X-ray. And, conversely, what may look like a tumor in one layer may reveal itself as harmless in another. So, you might be able to avoid additional tests for something that turns out to be benign.

Should I have a 3-D mammogram?

You might especially benefit from a 3-D mammogram if you have:

  • Had prior mammograms with ambiguous or inconclusive results.
  • Been told you have dense breast tissue.
  • Been called back for repeat breast scans.
  • Undergone biopsies for suspicious masses or lesions in the past.
  • Have (or had) breast cancer, or have a family history of cancer.

Getting a 3-D mammogram

Anyone can request one. Whether you’re due for your yearly screening mammogram or have a breast problem and need a diagnostic mammogram, anyone can request the 3-D mammogram. No doctor’s order is necessary for the screening mammogram.

Cost: Depending on your insurance coverage and the facility at which you receive services, additional fees may apply for 3-D mammography. You will be informed about any fees that are the patient’s responsibility when scheduling or checking in for your appointment.