Breast Cancer Awareness Month isn’t just important for survivors—it reminds us all to make annual mammograms and early detection a priority. Radiology Associates of Ocala, P.A. helps patients detect abnormalities as soon as possible using 3-D mammography to optimize the imaging process.
3-D mammography (a.k.a. tomosynthesis) is the new standard for screening exams and diagnostic breast imaging. It utilizes X-ray imaging and low-level radiation to capture numerous images of the breast, which form a 3-D composite.
“A normal mammogram takes four pictures, two on each side. Now, when we’re doing each one of those pictures, the machine is taking slices through the breasts rather than just four pictures. Sometimes now we have 100 to 300 pictures, so obviously we’re seeing a lot more of the tissue, and basically now we’re seeing inside. Each slice is about 1 millimeter thick, which is extremely thin, and it’s some of the highest resolution we have in radiology,” says Dr. Amanda Aulls, radiologist at RAO.
Tomosynthesis allows radiologists to examine breast tissue from varying angles, ensuring they can identify cancerous abnormalities and differentiate them from normal, healthy structures in the breast that may overlap during imaging and look suspicious. That means fewer women will be called back for secondary imaging they don’t need and spared the anxiety associated with a follow-up.
“The hope for 3-D is that we don’t have to have as many patients come back for additional imaging,” Dr. Aulls explains. “With 2-D mammography, about 10 percent of women get called back because we think we see something, but they usually don’t have something. I do feel like we’re calling fewer people back.”
So what’s the process like for patients? No different than usual. Patients still have to deal with the compression positioning, but 3-D mammography adds no more than a few extra seconds to the screening.
Patients with Medicare will be pleased to know 3-D mammography is covered by their insurance. Patients with other providers can call RAO at (352) 671-4300 to find out if they’re covered (but if not, 3-D mammography costs just $50 more for the extra imaging and accuracy).
“Usually insurance companies follow along with Medicare, so every year we’re hopeful they’ll follow suit,” Dr. Aulls says. “We try to educate people by sending them a letter before their appointment and educate them here as well if they have questions. 3-D is definitely something I recommend for the majority of women and would want for my family and myself to have. The best treatment outcomes come from finding cancer really early.”
Radiology Associates of Ocala, P.A. › TimberRidge Imaging Center › 9521 SW Hwy 200, Ocala › Women’s Imaging Center › 1901 SE 18th Avenue, Building 200, Ocala › (352) 671-4300 › raocala.com