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Should you get a 3D mammogram? What you should know about how the screening detects breast cancer

Mammogram recommendations can be confusing, and now more women are also being asked if they'd prefer a 3D screening as opposed to the traditional option.

A 3D mammogram, also known as digital breast tomosynthesis, is a newer breast cancer screening option that takes more images than a 2D digital mammography and experts say it's more accurate.

Should women opt for this newer test? Yes, Mayo Clinic radiologist Tara Henrichsen told USA TODAY.

"I don’t think there’s any reason not to do it," Henrichsen said. "It's an updated mammogram."

What's different about the 3D mammogram is the imaging itself. Older digital equipment takes a few single images of the breast whereas 3D technology takes those images plus many more at different depths within the breast.

"It allows us to see layers through the breast tissue," increasing the chance doctors could find hidden cancer cells and lesions, Henrichsen said.
Better imaging can also reduce the number of follow up visits a patient might need, depending on results, Henrichsen said.
Appointment time is typically the same with the 3D imaging. The only experiential difference patients might notice is that the machine itself moves around the breast to gather the additional data.
One drawback of the 3D mammogram might be price, depending on a patient's insurance. The technology is more expensive for clinics to purchase, which can result in a higher price for patients.

The American Cancer Society advices all women to begin annual mammogram screenings by age 45 and switch to screenings once every two years at age 55. The American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging recommend women start mammogram screenings at age 40.

Follow Ashley May on Twitter: @AshleyMayTweets

Oct. 9, 2018