When mammography was invented in the late 1960s, it changed health care dramatically. Where women before were having surgery on breast lumps to determine if they were cancerous (and it was very often too late by then) with this new invention, many of the tumors could be found with a low-radiation diagnostic test.

3D Mammography is an advance in diagnostic technology. Photo courtesy: Morton General Hospital.

But not all of the tumors showed up. Maybe not even most of them.

The medical field knew all along that mammography missed a lot of tumors. We’ve all heard about women being eight or nine months out from a clean mammogram and finding a lump in a self-exam. However, mammography was the best society had to offer.

Until 3-Dimensional Digital Mammography was invented, that is. This really did change everything.

Cancer is easier to see on 3D mammography. Photo courtesy: Morton General Hospital.

While there are currently several choices to receive a standard mammogram in Lewis County, Morton General Hospital being one of them, Morton is the only location in this county to offer 3-Dimensional Digital  Mammography. This speaks to our commitment to providing the very best diagnostic imaging services for our patients.

“We became the first in Lewis County to offer 3-Dimensional Digital Mammography as part of our women’s care program,” Hospital Chief Executive Officer Leiannne Everett said. “We did this because we know annual breast exams are crucial to ensure proper women’s health and 3-D digital mammography is much more accurate, greatly reducing the need for a recall mammogram, saving time, expense—and most importantly, providing early detection.”

A Different Dimension in Breast X-rays

Note how easy it is to see the cancer. Photo courtesy: Morton General Hospital.

This newer type of mammogram (also known as breast tomosynthesis) improves the accuracy of breast cancer screening—and therefore it dramatically increases life expectancy of breast cancer patients. In fact, it moves the patient from a 25 percent chance of a five-year or more life expectancy to a 95 percent chance of a five-year or more life expectancy. The difference is staggering.

How mammography works

Although our patients tell us that there is less compression with this new machine, during a 3-D Digital Mammogram, a woman’s breast is compressed, very similarly to a standard mammogram. An x-ray machine then moves over the breast, taking multiple, slice-like pictures, enabling the radiologists to get much clearer pictures—as well as look at the breast architecture from all angles.

Imaging Manager Jeri Whitnell demonstrates the hospital’s 3-Dimensional Digital Mammography Unit. Photo courtesy: Morton General Hospital.

3-Dimensional Digital Mammograms have the potential to:

  • Provide clearer images of abnormalities in dense breasts. Women who have dense breasts—defined as breasts that have a lot of fibrous or glandular tissue and not much fat—are at a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Improve the ability of doctors to accurately diagnose breast cancer.
  • Find small tumors that may have remained hidden on a conventional mammogram.
  • Greatly reduce the number of women called back for further testing because of false alarms.

Doctor referrals are not required for mammograms. “We encourage all women to give their families and themselves the best gift ever and have a 3-Dimensional Digital Mammogram right away,” Imaging Manager Jerri Whitnell said. Jerri, also a breast cancer survivor, speaks from experience. “Don’t procrastinate on this life-saving exam; call 360-496-3523 for an appointment.”

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