Medical Minute: 3D Mammography

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Medical technology is constantly changing, and Trinity is now making it easier to screen for breast cancer by moving to tomosynthesis or 3-D mammography for every patient.

They have even recently installed one of these machines in the community clinic in Williston.

"We weren't sure initially how it was going to be received, but we saw right away it was picking up cancers that previously would have been a little bit challenging to see," said Dr. Scott Lewis said, medical director of radiology.

Trinity first started using the three-dimensional imaging late last summer, and now it's used on almost every patient that walks in the door.

Insurance companies have started covering the procedures because of the time it saves in call back appointments and additional tests.

"It actually can save insurance companies by reducing those additional workups so over time more and more insurance companies are making the commitment to cover it," said Lewis.

It is essentially the difference between an x-ray and a cat scan, one image versus several that break down the image into smaller pieces.

"We would have one picture like this of the breast to look at. Now we have that same picture to look at but we have 50 different thin slices," said Lewis.

Those slices are about a millimeter thick. Meaning doctors can detect cancer sooner, and not have to worry about spots that turn out to be nothing.

"That's the power of the test. It's pretty unique to have an exam that can go both directions and benefit the patient," said Lewis.

The second machine now facilitates patient flow and scheduling.

With more images means more time, but also means better chance of catching cancer in an early stage.

"It takes a little bit more time because we have to scroll through and look at the images, but it's well worth the time based on what you can find," said Lewis.

Women should start getting yearly mammograms at age 40, earlier if there's a family history of breast cancer.