Local doctors, experts talk benefits of new-to-Columbus 3D mammography

A Columbus radiologist says that the new-to-the-area 3D mammography is a big improvement in testing for breast cancer and reduces anxiety for both doctor and patient.

Dr. William Lewis said tomosynthesis relieves some of the pressure he feels about possibly missing cancer because the process allows him to scroll through overlying dense tissue and find a small obscured tumor. It increases his ability to distinguish between small areas of normal dense tissue and what might be an area with cancer.

With 3D mammography, women are not as likely to get called back for further testing because of a false positive. Structural overlap of breast tissue can mimic an abnormality on traditional 2D imaging.

"You can imagine what goes through a woman's mind when she is told we have seen something, how nervous she must be," Lewis said. "Some might not be able to get in for two or three weeks and they are wondering if they have breast cancer."

One who can attest to that nervousness is LaDonna Cowart, 46, a receptionist at Smiths Station High School. She has a family history of cancer and has been called back after a mammogram.

Asked about what it is like to receive such as call, the mother of two called it "very emotional."

She said women will notice no difference between the 2D and 3D mammogram, "same pain, same squishing," she said, laughing.

Cowart said she is excited about 3D mammography being in Columbus.

Lewis explained the process, calling it a screening tool designed to overcome some of the limitations of traditional mammography.

"It is performed in conjunction with 2D mammography and only adds an additional 4 seconds to the exam time," he said. "It works by mathematically reconstructing the 2D images into a 3D volume of the breast, which can then be viewed as multiple thin slices. Multiple x-ray pictures are taken of each breast from many different angles in a single motion."

Lewis reads the test results for Columbus Diagnostic Center on 10th Avenue, which recently began doing the 3D mammograms.

The Columbus Regional Breast Care Center also does 3D mammography.

According to Columbus Diagnostic Center, breast cancer screening with tomosynthesis, when combined with a conventional 2D mammography, has a 40 percent higher invasive cancer detection rate than with 2D alone. There is a 40 percent reduction in recall rates.

Stephanie Griffin and LaShaye Hughley are mammography technicians at Columbus Diagnostic Center.

"It is a much more detailed picture, which makes it easier to detect a cancer. There is just more information," Hughley said.

Griffin called 3D mammography a cool concept that is very beneficial. She said there is an increase in the amount of radiation with the exam, but it is not something to be concerned about.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women, exceeded only by lung cancer. The two technicians feel it is important for women start getting an annual checkup at age 40.

Hughley said even women who don't have a family history of cancer need to get checked because a family history has to start somewhere.