UPMC Cole recently expanded breast imaging services available at the hospital to offer 3D mammography (tomosynthesis) as a lifesaving diagnostic screening.

“Early detection gives our patients the best possible advantage in breast cancer treatment,” said Susan Branton, M.D., medical director, Breast Health Services, UPMC in north central Pennsylvania. “3D mammography is a significant advancement in detecting the smallest tumors in women, especially those with dense breast tissue. Women with dense breast tissue are considered high risk and it’s important that they have access to the best diagnostic tools available to ensure any concerns are caught and treated as early as possible.”

Breast density describes the amount of breast and connective tissue in relation to the amount of fat and is divided into four categories: entirely fatty; minimally dense; moderately dense; and extremely dense. Since dense breast tissue and cancer both appear as white on a mammogram, cancer can easily be masked by surrounding dense tissue and the mammogram may be more difficult to interpret.

Although traditional mammography is effective for regular screenings, tomosynthesis is a best practice and more thorough approach for women with moderate to extremely dense breast tissue due to multiple camera angles and increased number of images (15 pictures in four seconds). Images captured by 3D mammography can be analyzed in millimeter layers that compose a 3D image of the breast, increasing visibility of small tumors.

Enacted in February 2014, Pennsylvania’s Breast Density Notification law requires health care providers to inform women about the density of their breast tissue to raise awareness of breast density and encourage women to discuss future screening options with their physician. A patient’s breast density is included in letters issued to patients following a mammogram.

For more information on 3D mammography at UPMC in North Central Pa., visit www.UPMC.com/BreastNCPA.

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