Breast Imaging: Mammography & Tomosynthesis (3-D Mammography)
Digital mammography remains the gold standard of care for identifying breast cancer in its
earliest stages – when it’s easiest to cure. With early detection
and treatment, the five-year survival rate is greater than 95 percent.
Mammography uses low-dose X-ray to create vivid images of breast tissue.
Digital breast tomosynthesis, or 3-D mammography, is a newer, advanced form of breast imaging that
makes it easier to detect small cancer tumors or abnormalities that can
be hard to see in dense breast tissue. Tomosynthesis gives doctors a three-dimensional
image set—with no increase in low-dose radiation.
Breast tomosynthesis is recommended for patients with moderately dense
or very dense breast tissue. (Prior mammogram reports should note density;
you can ask your doctor.) It’s also beneficial for patients with
an increased risk for or personal history of breast cancer. Compared to
2-D mammography, 3-D mammography offers a 40% increase in detection of
invasive cancer and fewer “call backs” for further diagnostic imaging.
A diagnostic mammogram is done to inspect an abnormality that has been
found in the breast, either during a screening mammogram, a breast self
exam or a clinical breast exam by your doctor. During a diagnostic mammogram,
more images are taken in order to determine the size and location of the
abnormality and to better examine surrounding tissue.
Diagnostic mammography may not be fully covered by insurance. Contact your
provider for specifics. At your appointment, we will give you an estimate
for your portion of the charge. You can pay all or part of the amount
at that time.
IMPORTANT: Before your diagnostic mammogram, please request your
medical record if prior breast imaging was not done at a BCH facility. If we have not
received these records before your diagnostic study, the appointment may
need to be rescheduled.
When are breast screenings recommended?
Most women should have annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40,
according to current American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Society
of Breast Imaging (SBI) guidelines. Doctors may recommend starting mammograms
before age 40 if you have a strong family history of breast cancer.
BCH recommends that women have regular screening mammograms annually starting
at age 40, along with monthly self-examinations and annual physical checkups
that include a clinical breast exam. Three-quarters of women diagnosed
with breast cancer do not have a family history and are not considered
Most health insurance plans do not fully cover tomosynthesis as a screening.
Typically, patients receive a bill for around $10 after insurance payments.
Check your specific coverage.
What to expect during breast imaging
On the day of your appointment, please don’t wear deodorant, powder,
lotion or ointment around the chest area or under your arms. You may want
to wear a two-piece outfit, since you only need to remove your top when
you change into a gown for the screening. Please arrive 15 prior minutes
to your scheduled exam.
Each breast will be compressed for several seconds to flatten the tissue
to allow for a clearer image. Some women find mild discomfort during compression
but it subsides quickly. You may want to schedule your screening during
a time of the month when your breasts are less tender and avoid caffeine
since caffeine can cause an increase in breast tenderness.
Screening exams generally take about 20 minutes. A radiologist will review
the results and send your doctor a report within 24-48 hours -- please
contact your doctor directly for results.
Benefits and risks
The benefits of detecting possible breast tumors at early stages far outweigh
minimal risk from low-dose radiation of screening or diagnostic breast imaging.
Schedule a Breast Imaging Appointment
For your convenience, BCH offers both screening and diagnostic breast imaging
at four locations throughout Boulder and Broomfield counties. Tomosynthesis
screenings are offered only at Foothills Hospital. Find more details below.
Boulder Medical Center (Boulder)
Community Medical Center(Lafayette)
Medical Imaging Center(Broomfield)
BCH accepts most major insurance plans. Explore
Self-Pay pricing options if you are uninsured or wish to pay directly for any service.
Questions About Your Bill?
For Billing and Payment information, click
Qualification & Accreditation
The Imaging Departments at Foothills Hospital and Boulder Medical Center
have been designated as Breast Cancer Centers of Excellence by the American
College of Radiology.