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Breast Tomosynthesis (3D Mammography)

Doctors and scientists agree that early detection is the best defense against breast cancer. Successful treatment and survival rates for breast cancer patients are dramatically affected by early detection of breast cancers.

While digital mammography is still one of the most advanced technologies available today, it is only a 2-dimensional picture of the breast. The breast is a 3-dimensional object composed of different structures, such as blood vessels, milk ducts, fat, and ligaments. All of these structures, which are located at different heights within the breast, can overlap when viewed as a 2-dimensional, flat image.

Reston Hospital Center now offers breast tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography, to take screening for breast cancer to the next level and our 3D mammograms are performed with lowest dose of radiation per patient in the Northern Virginia.

Nationally Recognized for Excellence in Breast Care

The Women's Imaging Center at Reston Hospital has been recognized by the American College of Radiology (ACR) as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence. This prestigious accreditation identifies our breast care team as meeting rigorous national standards for excellence in mammography, stereotactic breast biopsy and breast ultrasound–evidence of our commitment to outstanding breast care.

What is 3D mammography?

3D mammography is a new technology in the fight against breast cancer that allows doctors to examine your breast tissue one layer at a time. 3D mammography uses high-powered computing to convert digital breast images into a stack of very thin layers or "slices"– building what is essentially a "3-dimensional mammogram". A good analogy for 3D mammography is like thinking of the pages in a book. If you look down at the cover you cannot see all of the pages – but when you open it up, you can go through the entire book page-by-page to see everything between the covers. 3D mammography is designed with the same concept in mind.

Very low X-ray energy is used during the screening examination so your radiation exposure is below the FDA guidelines. Using 3D mammography and digital mammography together for screening has been proven to significantly reduce "call-backs" by 20-40%.

What to Expect

A 3D mammography exam is very similar to a traditional mammogram. Just as with a digital mammogram, the technologist will position you, compress your breast under a paddle and take images from different angles. During the 3D mammography part of the exam, the X-ray arm sweeps in a slight arc over the breast, taking multiple breast images in just seconds.

There is no additional compression required with 3D mammography, and it only takes a few seconds longer for each view. The technologist will view the images at their computer workstation to ensure they have captured adequate images for review by a radiologist.

Find a Breast Lump or Recently Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

If you suspect you have a breast lump or if you’ve been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, our breast care specialists and breast care navigators are here to help you and your family with follow-up breast care.

Get more information about mammography, including what to expect and when to call your doctor, at our online Health Library.