High-Tech Tool in War Against Breast Cancer

Thanks to an investment in some high-tech software, Solano Diagnostics Imaging (SDI) in Vacaville is the first entity in Solano County to offer 3-D mammography, a tool that is especially helpful in diagnosing or ruling out cancer in women with dense breasts.

In April 2013, California passed a law requiring patients with “Heterogeneously Dense Breasts” or “Extremely Dense Breasts” to be notified of their density score and possible risk for breast cancer. It is estimated that nearly 50 percent of all women who receive mammograms will soon learn they have dense breasts.

Breasts are composed of fatty tissue, milk lobules, milk ducts and connective tissue. The more milk ducts, milk lobules and connective tissue, the denser the breast.

Breast tomosynthesis takes multiple low-dose images of the breast and synthesizes them into a three-dimensional image.

“If a woman knows she has dense breasts, she can elect to come to SDI in Vacaville for a 3-D mammogram instead of relying on a standard mammogram,” explains Adrian Riggs, director. “If she gets a standard mammogram, there’s a good chance her doctor will refer her to have images taken using the 3-D tech-nology. She might as well go right for the best technology first.”

Rather than taking two images, as is done in standard mammography, breast tomosynthesis takes multiple low-dose images of the breast and synthesizes them into a three-dimensional image. This allows radiologists to examine the breast in very thin layers.

The digital image lets the radiologist rotate the tissue in front of or behind an abnormality, making detection easier. In addition, overlapping tissue that may appear abnormal on a standard mammogram can be determined to be benign in a 3-D image.

On a mammogram, denser breast tissue appears white, while fatty tissue is gray, explains Dr. Jason Marengo, an oncoplastic surgeon with the NorthBay Specialty Practice. “Typically when a cancer is found on a mammogram, it is also white. With very dense breasts, it can be difficult to clearly see cancer. It’s like trying to find a white snowflake against a white background.”

For the patient, getting a 3-D mammogram translates into fewer “call backs” for additional mammographic views, fewer unnecessary biopsies, detection of concerning masses that may have been obscured by surrounding breast tissue and fewer sleepless nights, says Dr. Marengo.

A patient doesn’t have to be a NorthBay Healthcare patient to get a 3-D screening at SDI in Vacaville, notes Riggs. “Just ask your doctor for a referral.”

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