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February 13, 2013
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Upstate now offers 3D mammography, giving radiologists a more detailed look at breast tissue

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Upstate University Hospital now offers 3D mammography, called tomosynthesis, which may appeal especially to women with dense breasts.

Taken just like a regular mammogram, tomosynthesis takes several 1-millimeter image slices of the breast, giving radiologists a more detailed look at breast tissue.

Upstate is the only facility in Upstate New York that offers tomosynthesis. It is available through Upstate’s Breast Imaging Center of the Women’s Health Network, located in Suite 120 at 550 Harrison Center, Syracuse.

The acquisition of this technology is timely. A state law that took effect Jan. 19 requires mammography centers to notify women with dense breasts, alerting them that this condition may put them at increased risk for breast cancer and that cancers are difficult to spot in dense tissue on a mammogram. The letters will advise women with dense breasts to talk to their primary care providers about whether additional imaging is appropriate.

“With our new technology, dense breasts can be evaluated,” says Deepa Masrani M.D., section chief of women’s imaging at Upstate.

Women with 20 percent or greater lifetime risk are advised to undergo a bilateral breast MRI. Those with less than a 20 percent lifetime risk who, nonetheless, remain apprehensive are advised to undergo screening breast ultrasound.

“The downfall to (additional testing) is that there are a lot of false positives,” says Masrani, which means some women may undergo procedures such as biopsy that turn out to be unnecessary.

A woman cannot tell by touch whether she has dense breasts. And, breast density can change over time, influenced by her weight, age, hormone levels and alcohol usage. Regardless of breast density, experts stress that mammograms are still the best screening tool against breast cancer, and they are recommended annually for women 40 and older.

Katherine Willer, M.D., an Upstate radiologist based on the Community Campus who specializes in breast imaging, says patients can help get the most accurate mammogram by going to the same mammography center, or making sure they bring previous images when they go to a new center. Radiologists like to have older images to compare with the newer, to help spot changes.

Willer also supports patients doing their own monthly breast exams. “I’ve seen a number of patients who have palpated their own cancer.”

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