3D mammography, also known as digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) is the latest technology for detecting breast cancer. Unlike traditional digital mammograms, tomosynthesis technology acquires multiple thin slice images of the breast, which allow the doctor to evaluate the breast tissue in individual segments and greater detail, resulting in the more accurate identification of suspicious breast lesions.

Who should receive a 3D mammogram?

While Diagnostic Imaging will be offering this service to all patients, this service is especially beneficial for women with dense breast tissue, and for younger patients with family histories of breast cancer. While dense breast tissue is not cancerous itself, it makes the detection and diagnosis of small hidden cancers more challenging when evaluating conventional digital mammograms. This happens because the dense breast tissue can mask small cancerous lesions.

Dense Breast Tissue

Often, a physician will examine a patient's breast, and the firmness/lumpiness of the breast tissue can raise suspicion for dense breast tissue. Ultimately, a mammogram is the best way to assess breast density. The white areas seen on a mammogram are the fibrous and glandular tissue elements of the breast. The darker areas are fat. The whiter a mammogram image, the denser the breast tissue.

Do test results take longer to get than digital mammograms?

3D mammograms take a little bit longer for a radiologist to evaluate/interpret. Nonetheless, despite this higher level of service, patients will receive their results at their appointment, as has always been the case at Diagnostic Imaging Specialists of Chicago.

How often do you recommend getting a 3D mammogram?

Annually. 3D mammograms are better than a conventional digital mammogram, so we wouldn’t want to do any less.


Along with being able to better differentiate suspicious breast lesions from dense breast tissue, there is an added comfort to this new technology. Tomosynthesis can help detect 10-15 percent more breast cancers, and does so earlier than standard 2D digital mammography. Additionally, the ability to better evaluate areas of questionable abnormality results in a significant reduction of having to perform additional diagnostic imaging, reducing the need for additional imaging by as high as 40 percent.

What You Can Expect

It is almost exactly the same as when one gets a conventional digital mammogram. The only difference is that the breast is held in compression for approximately five seconds longer, and the machine moves while the breast is held in compression (breast doesn't move). For more information about when to begin screening mammography and how to prepare for a mammogram, please visit our Digital Mammography Services page.