In February of this year the SSM St. Anthony Hospital Shawnee received its new 3D Tomosynthesis machine, which is the latest technology in mammography and allows patients to receive more conclusive results on their health.
According to Radiologist Ryan Skinner, M.D., machines such as the 3D Tomosynthesis are used for women 40 years or older, who are encouraged to receive yearly mammograms to check for breast cancer.
"We use this machine for screening mammography....So anybody can come and get it. You don't have to go to the doctor first. It's just recommended for females of age 40," Skinner said.
Skinner said the 3D Tomosynthesis takes three denominational images of the breasts and allows radiologists, such as himself, the opportunity to examine the patient more concisely than the previous machines would.
"So with 2D imaging we took four pictures and it was the whole breast in the picture. So we were trying to find cancer by looking at the whole breast at one time and it's like looking at the whole book and trying to find watch page cancer is on," Skinner said.
However, this new machine allows Skinner to take multiple images of the breast and really observe what is going on with the patient.
"Now instead of looking at the whole book you look at one page at a time. So you can actually find cancer...," Skinner said. "We look at it on one millimeter slices. So instead of four images we'll have several hundred. So we're looking at each slice individually."
The radiologist explained with this technology comes few new aspects people should be aware of.
Skinner said these aspects include how much exposure patients have to radiation and how quickly the results are found.
"The experience for the female is very similar to the old technology. They can't hardly tell that anything different is happening," Skinner said. "There is technically a little more (radiation) than the old way, but it's much less than even the first 3D machines."
Skinner explained 3D mammography has been used since 2011, but St. Anthony had a 2D machine and last February when they purchased the 3D Tomosynthesis, they added an extremely developed 3D mammogram machine to their hospital.
"Our unit is 40 percent less dose than the first 3D units. So the bottom line is it's very low dose and no one should be worried about the does of radiation...," Skinner said.
In fact, Skinner said, while one screening on a 2D machine is less radiation than a screening on the 3D, the 3D gives more conclusive results and the patient return rate is much lower.
Skinner also said with the 3D machine, professionals use the hundreds of images taken once and synthesize them into 2D images so patients are only exposed once to the radiation.
The radiologist explained while it does take him longer to find the results, it's more beneficial to the mindset of the patient and 98 percent of the time he can give them their results and options for the next step before they leave his office.
"The primary advantage is that we can find smaller cancers earlier. The second advantage is that when we used to look at the whole book sometimes we thought we saw cancer, but we couldn't tell...," Skinner said. "So we would overcall cancer sometimes and what that meant was the patient would come back for more images."
Skinner said overcall is a false positive and those are bad for obvious reasons, but also for the mentality of the patient.
However, yet another benefit of the 3D machine is limiting these false positives and easing the mind of the majority of patients.
"Now that hardly every happens. I wouldn't say never, but the false positive rate has gone down," Skinner said. "So women usually know...when they leave whether or not there's something to worry about."
Skinner said studies have shown 3D imaging as opposed to 2D can be up to 30 percent more accurate at catching cancer early on, which in turn improves the rate of breast cancer survivors.
Overall, Skinner said the 3D Tomosynthesis has improved mammography for both the patients and medical professionals of St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital.