Tag Archives: Mammography

What is Breast Tomosynthesis and 3D Mammography?

Breast Tomosynthesis is better known by most patients and physicians as 3D mammography. However, the use of the term “3D” is a bit misleading. There are no 3D glasses to wear as one would typically expect when viewing a 3D image or movie and nothing “pops” out of the screen in the traditional “stereoscopic” sense.* The images actually appear as “flat” 2D images but are taken at multiple angles relative to the breast and then synthesized to appear as numerous thin traditional 2D images of the breast. This enables the radiologist to look at a single picture for essentially every millimeter of thickness through the breast. Depending on how thick the breast is when compressed, there can be 70 or more images for each view of each breast. In total, there can be 300 or more images created for each mammogram. The term 3D was initially introduced for the purpose of marketing directly to the consumer and to a lesser extent the medical community, but has since become so entrenched in our vocabulary that it’s here to stay.

Ryan Polselli
2D mammogram and 3D mammogram from same patient. The 3D mammogram on the left shows the breast cancer more clearly.

A useful way to understand the concept is to imagine superimposing all the individual tomosynthesis images.  The resulting image would be very similar to the traditional 2D digital mammogram that has been the mainstream of mammographic screening for the last 10 years or so. The advantage of separating the images with tomosynthesis is that it allows the breast imaging radiologist to “see through” the normal breast tissue which can traditionally “overlap.” The image above is a good example. This traditional “overlap” causes 2 main problems. It can hide underlying cancer and it can occasionally overlap in such a way to look suspicious for cancer when there is actually no cancer present. These two problems with the traditional 2D mammogram result in decreased cancer detection rates and more patient recalls for additional imaging to look for cancer that is not there. In other words, 3D mammograms (breast tomosynthesis) detect more breast cancers and results in less false alarms.

Numerous scientific studies have now demonstrated the benefits of 3D mammogram. Among them, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2012 involving nearly half a million women demonstrated a significant increase in the breast cancer detection rate and the simultaneous decrease in the recall rate with breast tomosynthesis when compared to standard 2-D digital mammography.

In January of 2015, Medicare was the first insurer to begin reimbursing for breast tomosynthesis. More recently, in August of 2016, Cigna, inspired by the mammogram recommendations of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), became the first private insurer to begin reimbursing for breast tomosynthsis.  More recently, as of April 2017, Anthem and UnitedHealthcare have also reported that they will reimburse for 3D mammogram. Largely as a result of recent studies documenting cost saving and increased breast cancer detection rates, several states including New York, Texas, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Maryland have introduced bills seeking mandated insurance reimbursement for patients seeking to undergo breast tomosynthesis in their states.  In the future, as the technology becomes more widespread, there will likely be an increasingly larger network of insurance companies that reimburse for breast tomosynthesis.

From the patient perspective, there is nothing noticeably different from having a 3D mammogram when compared with the 2D mammogram other than the “arm” which takes the mammographic “picture” will rotate slightly when obtaining the exposure. Unfortunately compression is still required and the experience is still uncomfortable. Patients that are pre-menopausal can minimize any discomfort by obtaining a mammogram approximately 1 week after a period or if medically appropriate, taking an anti-inflammatory before the procedure.

Ryan Polselli, M.D., Diplomate of the American Board of Radiology, Breast Imaging Radiologist

Please note, this is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice.

*Note, Fujifilm does market a traditional stereoscopic 3-D viewer, but the technology has not yet been adopted into mainstream clinical practice.

What Every Woman Needs to Know about Breast Thermography

Fluoridation of water exists to mask bad dental care to the poor. Vaccinations cause autism but the proof has been suppressed by a massive pharmaceutical company cover-up. HIV is an artifical disease created by the CIA. Condensation trails from aircraft represent the emission of biological and chemical agents into the atmosphere.

If you believe in any of the above or similar conspiracy theories, this article is not for you. However, if you believe in the scientific method and that properly applied scientific knowledge can improve health and prolong life, stick around.

Ryan Polselli


There is an increasingly popular trend in the field of breast cancer screening. Many patients are turning to Thermography as an alternative to traditional mammography. Thermography is an older technology that uses a special camera to take infrared pictures of the breast looking for relative hotspots which are supposed to correlate with breast cancer. There is no ionizing radiation involved and it’s painless.

The theory being used to support it’s effectiveness is that tumors have increased metabolic activity and vascular recruitment which produces heat. This heat can then supposedly be detected in the form of a visual hotspot. While the gross concept is generally sound and it is true that some tumors produce more detectable heat than the surrounding tissues, many don’t.

But what do the scientific studies show? A complete review of the scientific literature demonstrates that Thermography does not reliably detect breast cancer or prolong life. In essence, Thermography is no more effective at detecting the important forms of breast cancer than throwing darts in the dark. The lack of effectiveness is likely due to the fact that breasts have a natural variation in background heat levels which mask or minimize any potential detectable heat difference between breast cancers, espeically when the cancer is small or slow growing.

So for those women wishing to improve chances of survival for a disease that shows up in 1 in 8 women, stick with traditional mammography and ignore the anecdotal stories of Thermographic success which can be found throughout the internet…along with the stories of chemtrails and vaccination cover-ups.

Note, this is post IS intended to be medical advice.

Ryan Polselli, M.D.

Diplomate of the American Board of Radiology

Fellowship Trained Breast Imager

Should I Have a Mammogram Yearly or Every Other Year

I have written about this before, but I receive so many questions about this on a daily basis that I want to revisit the question.

There are organizations that advocate both.

Organizations such as the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) advise mammograms every other year. They acknowledge that many cancers will be missed with this model, but they believe the number is “small” (it is estimated an additional 100,000 women will die as a result of the recommendations) but they believe this is outweighed by the anxiety, additional biopsies, and the potential for misdiagnosis that can occur by yearly mammograms.

Organizations such as the American College of Radiology (ACR), still recommend yearly mammograms because they believe the number of lives that will be saved by yearly screening far outweighs the anxiety, the extra biopsies, and the potential for misdiagnosis.

I personally want every important woman in my life to have a mammogram every year because I am more concerned that they could end up as one of the 100,000 women that will die from a missed cancer than I am that they could experience some anxiety, an extra biopsy, or misdiagnosis.

But this may not be the right decision for everyone and most importantly I believe in patients being given all the facts…and the freedom…to make their own choices.

-Ryan Polselli, M.D.

Fellowship Trained Breast Imaging Radiologist