Ask Renee Jones this question and you will get a very personal answer: “Because it could save your life. A 3D mammogram caught my breast cancer early so I could begin treatment quickly and have some peace of mind.”
Fortunately, the 48-year-old was encouraged to get a 3D mammogram by a staff member when she arrived for her screening at Texas Health Neighborhood Care & Wellness Prosper in 2019. She had originally planned to have a standard (2D) mammogram, as she had always done. After talking with a patient access coordinator about the benefits of 3D imaging, Renee opted for the more comprehensive screening.
“I have had issues with fibroadenomas [common non-cancerous breast tumors] for more than 20 years, so I never miss my annual,” she says. “The past several years, I was always given the option of a 3D mammogram but I never elected to have one because I knew my insurance wouldn’t cover it. For some reason, that day at Texas Health Prosper felt different and Denise at Patient Registration did a great job of explaining the benefit of 3D in possibly alleviating the need for follow-up ultrasounds. The cost didn’t turn out to be as bad as I expected, and the doctor stated that my cancer would not have been detected through a normal mammogram because it was buried in my dense breast tissue.”
“The benefits of a 3D mammogram are substantial, and our coordinators are educated to provide details about the 3D exam,” explains radiologic technologist Jackelen Mitchusson of the Women’s Imaging Department at Texas Health Prosper. “A 2D mammogram only takes X-ray images of the front and side of the breast. Because the breast often overlaps the tissues found in the breast area, certain indicators of cancer may remain hidden in such views.
Our new curved-paddle 3D technology mirrors the shape of a woman’s breast to reduce pinching and apply uniform compression over the entire breast. With this technology, images can be taken from multiple angles to create a broader, more inclusive picture of the breast for the radiologist to examine.”
The Best Defense against Breast Disease
Mitchusson points out that a 3D mammogram has other benefits as well. These include:
- Improving radiologists’ ability to screen for and detect potential breast cancers.
- Helping radiologists pinpoint size, shape and location of abnormalities.
- Aiding in distinguishing harmless abnormalities from real tumors, leading to fewer biopsies and less anxiety for women.
- Finding microcalcifications (tiny deposits of calcium) that sometimes indicate the presence of breast cancer.
Renee is thankful she listened to the guidance of the patient coordinator, and glad she follows the American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging guidelines for breast cancer screening as a woman over the age of 40.
Renee’s images were read by the radiologist the same day her screening exam was done. She then received word of the diagnosis: invasive ductal carcinoma HER2+.
“Although the timing can vary, we strive to have mammograms read within one to two business days and made available in the MyChart app,” Mitchusson says. “When a patient returns for additional imaging, which is fairly routine, they will be given the results by the radiologist at the time of the exam. If a patient needs a biopsy they will be referred to a nurse navigator within Texas Health for scheduling and follow-up care.”
Renee underwent a breast-conserving lumpectomy followed by targeted radiation and is now receiving chemotherapy. As for the 3D mammogram, she says she simply advises women to “get one!”
“Patients who have not had a mammogram may be apprehensive from the moment the exam is scheduled. The women who work in our imaging area are well educated on breast imaging and insurance coverage and can answer most mammography questions outside of the technical aspect of the exam.
I tell patients that they will be so surprised at how easy the exam really is. I spend the first few minutes going over the exam with the patient and explain that this process is a collaborative effort on both their part and mine when it comes to position, compression and imaging. Working with the patient in this way allows them to become invested in the exam as much as me. The fear is usually taken away and the patient becomes more relaxed about the procedure. Comfort and trust are the two most important factors we set out to establish before an exam is done here at Texas Health Prosper,” Mitchusson adds.
3D Mammography and Insurance
Most insurance plans cover 3D mammography. But because there are some exceptions, it’s always best to verify coverage with your insurance company before making an appointment. To schedule a mammogram with Texas Health, find a convenient screening location.