Weighing the risks and rewards of 3-D mammograms


One local woman got the scare of her life when doctors found a suspicious lump in her breast.

“I can only tell you that I thought my life was over,” said Toby Klausner.  “Completely over, that waiting and it was just some strange image and it was fine.”

Klausner felt like she dodged a bullet.  But, new 3-D technology now being used in the Indianapolis area at IU Health Saxony in Fishers could give women like Klausner more peace of mind.

“The machine will actually arc in 15-degrees both ways,” said technician Ashley Poe said.  “It shows the whole 3-D series.”

It's called Tomosynthesis or 3-D mammography.

“It promises to be the next big step in the detection of breast cancer,” said IU Health Saxony Radiologist Dr. Matthew Nartker.

Dr. Nartker said the traditional 2-D image did not detect any signs of cancer in one patient.  However, the 3-D image did.  He pointed to a white spot in the breast tissue.

“And if you look in this region right here there is a small about 4 millimeter mass and you can see the little arms coming off it and this is a very small but real breast cancer,” said Dr. Nartker.

The image gives the doctor super thin slices of the breast tissue so they can carefully inspect each layer.

But, there are some risks with this technology.  Patients get twice the dose of radiation.

“The radiation dose is higher than with traditional mammography,” Dr. Nartker said.  “But, even with these extra images the dose is still well below the FDA’s limit for what is safe to use of mammography.”

Dr. Nartker also said 3-D mammograms have shown to reduce call backs by 40 percent. 
This new technology can cost more for the patient and some insurance companies may not pay for it.  But for women like Klausner, she said the peace of mind is worth it.

“I got a clean bill of health and can come back in a year,” said Klausner.




Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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