Early research has shown that 3D mammography can improve breast cancer detection rates and reduce false-positive rates. In women with dense breast tissue, which can mask cancers on conventional mammography, 3D mammography is emerging as a valuable supplemental screening tool.

Is 3D Mammography Cost Effective?

Recent research published in Radiology concluded that 3D mammography is a cost-effective way to screen for cancer in women with dense breast tissue. Using data collected from the National Cancer Institute and Medicare, researchers from the University of Washington and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance attempted to calculate the cost per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) added when 3D mammography was performed in combination with conventional mammography.

In women aged 50 to 74 years with dense breast tissue who received biennial breast cancer screening, 3D mammography cost $53,893 per QALY added. This is well below the threshold of $100,000 generally used to indicate cost-effectiveness.

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3D Mammography Reduces Need for Unnecessary Follow-Ups

The researchers determined that one breast cancer death could be prevented in every 2,000 women screened when 3D mammography was added to conventional mammography. Additionally, more than 800 false-positive results could be avoided.

The reduction in false-positive results is a potentially significant finding. No woman likes to hear back from her breast imaging center that additional imaging is required to ensure her physician can rule out breast cancer. Apply the conclusions of the study to a larger population and thousands of women in the United States may be able to avoid the anxiety of a false-positive result every year.

“The impact for the patients in terms of mortality benefit and decreased anxiety are the main benefits we’re seeing,” wrote Dr. Christopher Lee, lead author of the study.

3D Mammography and Breast Density

Women with dense breast tissue should seek clarity from their doctors on what might be the most appropriate supplemental screening exam. Although advice for a woman must be individualized, formal screening recommendations may one day include 3D mammography.

This is a topic of growing importance across America as more states are mandating that breast imaging centers inform women if they have dense breasts, as identified on their screening exam. At the time of posting this article:

  • 19 states require breast imaging centers to inform women if they have dense breasts.
  • 12 more states have introduced notification legislation.
  • There is a bill pending with the United States Congress.
  • Only Illinois and Connecticut require insurance coverage for additional screening tests after mammography.

Breastlink is committed to ensuring our patients have access to some of the most advanced breast cancer detection technology available. We offer 3D mammography and additional supplemental screening services to women with dense breast tissue. To learn more, please contact a member of our team.

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