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3D mammograms help doctors find abnormalities with fewer false positives

Learn about the technology that makes it easier for a doctor to spot potential breast health issues with "Take KARE of your Health."

MAPLE GROVE, Minn. — This content is sponsored by The Breast Center of Maple Grove.

There's an option for your annual mammogram that you may not have heard about: A 3D mammogram.

A 3D mammogram also is known as digital breast tomosynthesis. 

During the process, the X-ray machine sweeps across a woman's breast, taking pictures at multiple angles. The computer then generates images in multiple layers.

"Then what you can do is...scroll through the breast [images] almost like looking through the pages of a book. Just going through the breast, layer by layer, and looking at each layer and trying to detect cancer," said Dr. Nellie Bauer, medical director at the Breast Center of Maple Grove.

The results are much different than a 2D image.

"When I'm looking at a flat image, I have to try to read through all of that overlapping tissue and find the abnormality, which can look the same density as breast tissue," said Bauer. 

Bauer says the 3D mammogram shows images of the breast in about one millimeter increments. The technology makes it easier to spot abnormalities, but there's also another benefit. Because the 3D image makes it easier to decipher between breast tissue and cancer, there are fewer false positives. 

"We're not calling back as many women and alarming them, and then finding out [they] don't really have cancer," Bauer said. 

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