According to the Centers for Disease Control, 65 percent of women over 40 have gotten a mammogram in the past two years. What keeps the other 35 percent from seeking out the breast cancer screening tool? Fear and convenience, speculates Dr. Annina N. Wilkes, Clinical Associate Professor of Radiology at Jefferson Honickman Breast Imaging Center.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women, making the fear understandable. And yet if detected early, the disease is easily treatable, said Dr. Wilkes.
Jefferson Honickman has added the latest in 3D mammogram technology to its easily accessible East Norriton facility in hopes of overcoming both the fear and inconvenience hurdles that keep patients from seeking screening. The new technology reduces fear because there are fewer callbacks for follow-up pictures. “That’s because we’re able to see through the breast so well. We’re able to analyze everything we see a whole lot better,” Wilkes explained.
The more common 2D mammograms take two images of the breast, one from the side and one from the top which radiologists use to search for changes in breast tissue that could be cancerous.
The newer 3D technology takes many more pictures from different angles, said Dr. Wilkes.
“Although it is widely called 3D, it is actually not technically a 3D mammogram. It is a technology that allows us to get a better look, through pictures, of the inside of your breasts. It’s like if you took a photograph of an apple, you wouldn’t be able to see the apple core or apple seeds that are inside of the apple in the photograph,” she said.
“Tomosynthesis is a technology that allows us to see thin sections or slabs of the inside of your breast, just like if you were to cut an apple into thin slices and arrange them on a cutting board allowing you see the core and seeds. The technology allows these pictures to be reconstructed so that we can evaluate similar to how we looked at previous mammograms,” said Dr. Wilkes, who has been in practice for 30 years.
While the technology is different, the experience is similar to a standard mammogram.
“The breast is still compressed, but not as much. The plates and pads are softer and contoured more to make it more comfortable. The procedure takes a little longer, but you don’t have to hold your breath,” she said.
Clinical trials are still being conducted to determine if the technology does a better job of detecting breast cancer earlier. “What 3D has successfully done is reduce the wait for people to come back for additional pictures,” she said.
Dr. Wilkes recommends that all women over the age of 40 get a mammogram once a year and those over the age of 30 get checked yearly if they have symptoms or a family history. She said most insurance companies pay for mammograms without question, but she still advised that patients check first to be sure.
While the 3D mammogram imaging will be new to the East Norriton practice, it isn’t new to Jefferson Honickman. “We’ve had 3D mammography in Center City since 2015,” said Dr. Wilkes. “We have a lot of experience with it, and we can now offer the same state of the art technology in the suburbs.”
“Our center in East Norriton is convenient with parking, where you’re not going to a big hospital where you have to pay for parking. And we see you very quickly,” said Dr. Wilkes.
“I expect we’ll be able to see more patients for routine screening in East Norriton because there won’t be as many callbacks so more slots will be available. Patients should also be reassured that we have state-of-the-art technology, so we’re getting the best possible look at your breast.”
Jefferson Outpatient Imaging in East Norriton offers full service imaging including 3D mammography in a friendly, comfortable outpatient environment. Evening and weekend hours are available, and most insurances are accepted. All reports are interpreted by the subspecialized radiologists from Jefferson Health. To schedule an appointment, call us directly: 215-503-4900.