Where tech meets health: One Year of 3D Mammography at St. Joseph Hospital

Eureka, Ca., (KIEM)- It’s been a year since a state of the art 3D Mammography Machine was installed at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka.

The machine can construct a three-dimensional image of a woman’s breast using digital mapping technology. The device is especially useful in detecting tumors in women with dense breast tissue. Traditional mammography equipment works great in detecting tumors in fatty or normal breasts, but the denser tissue can lead to false positives or unclear images.

“Imagine a glass of milk with a marble inside,” Dr. Donald Wheeler, the director of diagnostic imaging at St. Joseph explains. Finding that marble is difficult unless you remove the milk one layer at a time. The 3D Mammogram ‘cuts through the layers’ so to speak. Fatty breast tissue, which is more common in older women, is more like water. Finding the marble in a glass of water is much less difficult.

“By no means is the 2D mammogram a second rate test.” Wheeler says. The 3D machine, which can see up to five women an hour also has a 2D function. As compression can be uncomfortable, and the 2D image is quicker to capture, radiologists are unlikely to use the more advanced feature on women who might not need it.

Regardless, early detection is still the first line of defense in treating breast cancer. Close to 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed in their lifetime, so, even though Breast Cancer Awareness Month is over November is not too late to schedule your mammogram.