Digital Breast Tomosynthesis

A new digital technology, breast tomosynthesis has shown to be an advance over digital mammography, with higher cancer detection rates and fewer patient recalls for additional testing. This is extremely important. The medical community has long sought ways to improve breast cancer screening accuracy. Better sensitivity will likely translate into more lives saved. Lower recall rates result in fewer patients who may experience short-term anxiety awaiting test results. This is important evidence that tomosynthesis will have a positive impact on patient care.

All seven SDMI imaging centers now offer 3D mammography.  SDMI is certified as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology, so you can have confidence in the standards of our care.

PLEAST NOTE:  Not all insurances cover tomosynthesis.  Be sure to check with your insurance to see if it is a covered service.  Even if it is NOT covered, patients may elect to have the 3D mammogram upgrade to their standard mammogram for an additional fee of $50.00.  This fee will be in addition to any co-pay and/or deductible that is due for the standard 2D mammogram.

There are two types of mammograms:  Screening and Diagnostic.

Screening mammograms are used to check for breast cancer in both men and women who have no signs or symptoms. The x-ray images make it possible to detect tumors that cannot be felt, and can also find microcalcifications (tiny deposits of calcium) that sometimes indicate the presence of breast cancer.

Diagnostic mammography takes longer than screening mammography because more x-rays are needed to obtain views of the breast from several angles. The technician may magnify a suspicious area to produce a detailed picture that can help the doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

Some symptoms of breast cancer can include: a lump (which is the most common form), breast pain, thickening or hardening of the skin of the breast, nipple discharge, or a change in breast size or shape.

Mammography tests were originally performed using screen-film cassettes, but transitioned to digital mammography, or Full Field Digital Mammography (FFDM), and now to Digital Breast Tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography.

When the mammography procedure is first initiated, the breast is compressed utilizing a dedicated mammography unit. Parallel-plate compression evens out the breast tissue thickness so that it can improve the image quality by reducing the tissue thickness that X-rays need to penetrate. This helps to decrease the amount of scattered radiation dose required.

These images are analyzed by radiologists to scan for any abnormal findings. Types of scans used for a mammography are: Ductography, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Positron Emission Mammography (PEM), and ultrasound.

The process of diagnostic mammography takes longer than a standard screening mammography because more X-rays are required in order to obtain views of the breast from several different angles.

During examination and procedure, the technician may magnify a suspicious looking area in order to locate and produce a detailed photograph that can help to doctor to make an accurate diagnosis. Patients are discouraged to wear deodorant, talcum powder or lotion during their examination procedure, as they can show up on an X-ray as calcium spots. Once completed, mammograms are either looked at by one (for a single reading) trained professional generally known as radiologists, but the film readers can also be radiographers, radiotherapists, or breast clinicians. Double readings can also be done, but that practice is more common in the United Kingdom than the United States. It does, however, significantly improve the sensitivity and specificity of the procedure.

For quality control, mammography facilities in the United States (and related military bases) are subject to the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA), which requires annual inspections and accreditation every three years through an FDA approved body.

The process and origin of mammography can be traced back to the discovery of x-rays by Wilheim Rontgen in the year 1895. In the late 1950’s, Robert Egan from the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center combined low kVp, high mA, and single emulsion films to devise a new method of screening mammographies. These results were published in 1959, and in 1964, a book called “Mammography” was released. The “Egan technique” enabled physicians to detect calcification in breast tissue.


3D mammography has been proven to improve cancer detection particularly in women with dense breast tissue.

  • Tomosynthesis (3D Mammography) was approved by the FDA in 2011.
  • Not all 3D Mammo technology is equal. Some increase your radiation by more than 2x. 3D Mammo at SDMI has no additional radiation.

Currently, there are many providers that cover the 3D screening mammogram. Click here to view a current list.  If you do not see your provider on this list, contact them directly to inquire.

There is a $50 charge to add 3D to your standard mammogram if your insurance does not cover 3D.  This would need to be paid at the time of service.

A screening mammogram referral from your Physician and during registration you will sign a waiver acknowledging that you are aware your insurance does not cover the additional cost of 3D mammography.

There are approximately 10-20 times more images taken during the 3D exam, but it only adds about 5 minutes more to the total scan time of about 15-20 minutes.

SDMI installed the GE Senoclair machines to ensure our patients are exposed to NO MORE RADIATION than a traditional 2D Mammogram.

As long as you have a referral for a screening mammogram, you can request 3D when you schedule your appointment or when you check in at the front desk upon arrival.

GE SenoClaire 3D Mammography

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