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3-D Mammograms Improve Cancer Detection, UW Study Finds

While mammograms are successful in detecting early breast cancer, they are sometimes associated with false positives. Researchers at the University of Washington say 3-D mammograms are more accurate and can help find hidden tumors. 

A new study touts 3-D mammography, also called tomosythesis, as a cost-effective and more accurate way of detecting breast cancer than traditional mammography. But it may not be necessary for everyone. The women followed in the study all had what doctors refer to as “dense breasts.” 

Dr. Christoph Lee, the lead author the study, says 50 percent of all women of screening age have dense breasts.

"Its this double hit for women with dense breasts. Their mammogram detection is less accurate, and they're at this increased lifetime risk of developing breast cancer,” Lee said.

Breast density isn’t something you or your doctor can feel. It’s something a radiologist looks for in a mammogram. New 3-D mammography reconstructs the breast so doctors can spot hidden cancers.

The study found that by adding 3-D mammography, false positives are significantly reduced. That means you’re less likely to be called back for a repeat mammogram. And it also means you might not need to go through expensive follow-up care such as ultrasounds and biopsies.