Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Adding 3-D Mammograms May Improve Accuracy

Combination Screening Also Reduced Unnecessary Recalls, Researchers Find
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 20, 2012 -- Although mammograms remain the gold standard for breast cancer screening, they are not the perfect test.

They don’t find up to 30% of cancers, and they often find something that may be suspicious for cancer but really isn’t after additional testing. These are called false-positive results.

Some researchers are seeing better results by adding another form of testing, called three-dimensional or 3-D breast imaging.

"This technology makes a big impact," says researcher Elizabeth A. Rafferty, MD, a radiologist and director of breast imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

"Three-dimensional mammography addresses the two major flaws of mammography," she says. One is the inability to see some cancers on a mammogram. The other is a need to call back women for what looks like abnormal tissue that isn't, she says.

The study is published in the journal Radiology. Hologic, the maker of the 3-D system studied, funded the study as part of the process to receive FDA approval for the test, Rafferty says. She does not work for Hologic.

The FDA approved the 3-D system in early 2011. It is now installed in more than 300 centers, according to Jim Culley, a spokesman for Hologic.

More About 3-D Imaging

Rafferty says using 3-D is helpful for routine screening and for high-risk women.

A conventional digital mammogram is only two-dimensional. It produces a single, flattened image.

The 3-D system captures multiple images from different angles around the breast. It helps give the radiologist clearer views through overlapping breast tissue.

A woman having both types is not likely to notice any difference, as both digital and 3-D mammograms can be done on the same equipment.

3-D Plus Conventional: Study Results

Women in the study received mammograms at five different sites between July 2006 and May 2007. Of the 997 women eligible, complete analysis was done on 622.

Each had a digital mammogram and a 3-D mammogram.

The rate at which cancer was correctly identified increased by up to 16% by adding the use of 3-D. That means ''as many as 16% more cancers will be found," Rafferty says.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow