Are you dense? 3D Mammography goes online in Huntsville and Madi - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Are you dense? 3D Mammography goes online in Huntsville and Madison

Dr. Robin Gwaltney (Source: WAFF) Dr. Robin Gwaltney (Source: WAFF)
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - It's breakthrough technology. It's lifesaving equipment if you are the one diagnosed with breast cancer.

And if you were one of the 6,600 who walked or ran in the 2014 Liz Hurley Ribbon Run, you helped purchase it.

On Wednesday, 3D screening digital mammography goes online at Huntsville Hospital and Madison Hospital's Breast Centers. It's the Digital Tomosynthesis or "Tomo" machine.

Two machines were purchased - one is online in Huntsville and another in Madison. A third machine is planned with proceeds from the 2015 Liz Hurley Ribbon Run.

“With early detection, the five-year survival rate is almost 100 percent,” said Dr. Libby Shadinger, Breast Center medical director. “That's why we were very intentional in our choice of technology, and why we are grateful to the Liz Hurley Ribbon Run for providing funds to purchase what we felt was the best technology available.”

The 2D mammography machines, the standard workhorse of the industry, are still on-line at both centers and give radiologists two digital views of the breast as they look for any abnormalities.

"Tomo" gives physicians many more "slices" of the breast to look at, compare, and provides clearer detailed views, of breast tissue.

This is especially important for women who have dense breasts, which are more than 40 percent of us.

The 3D technology used by the Breast Centers is the only clinically superior 3D mammography technology approved by the FDA.

As patients, women won't notice anything different. The feel and the compression will be the same. For doctors, though, the results will be significant.

Because there are now the two modalities to choose from (2D and 3D) women and/or their doctors have a choice on which type of screening mammogram to receive. 

MORE: New dimensions of breast cancer detection at Crestwood

That decision has to be made in advance at the time of scheduling. Insurance may play a role in what a woman chooses. Most insurance companies pay for all but $60 dollars of the 3D Digital Mammography. Medicare is the only insurance to date that covers 3D completely. Some insurance policies may reimburse the $60 fee if the screening mammogram results in a diagnosis of dense breast tissue.

If you plan to walk or run in the 2015 Liz Hurley Ribbon Run this October to help purchase a third machine, you can register here on June, 2015.
Another thing you need to know about mammograms is that there is a move afoot to change the age at which a woman gets her first mammogram and subsequent ones.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force wants to move the recommended age from 40 to 50-years-old.

Dr. Robin Gwaltney, Huntsville Hospital Breast Center Radiologist says, "It's a political decision not a medical one."
If you are under 50-years-old and have been getting annual mammograms, know that your insurance coverage would change if this becomes a federal standard. 

In other words, mammograms for women under 50-years-old would likely not be covered by insurance without a very compelling reason. To learn more about this, click here.

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