Mammography as a whole has come a long way. Before there were traditional mammography machines, a lump in the breast was almost always assumed to be cancer and lumpectomies were not yet a reality, so women (and men) lost their whole breasts after a biopsy confirmed abnormal cells. Then traditional mammography machines produced images that made it possible for patients to keep most of their breast tissue but lose the lumps. Now 3D mammography machines are taking things even further. Here are three things that 3D mammography machines can do that traditional mammography machines cannot and why this matters.

3D Images Project Depth of Breast Tissue

A 3D image of your breast tissue reveals the density of the breast, the mammary glands present, the amount of fatty tissue present, and the location, size, and density of unusual lumps. Knowing all of these factors, your doctor can give you a more precise idea of what will happen during surgery, and this information will help him or her cut out the lump without damaging the breast tissue around it. This also helps the surgeon locate major blood vessels in the breast so that they can avoid nicking them with the scalpel and avoid a potential leak of the abnormal cells into your bloodstream.

3D Images Can Be Used to Construct 3D Surgical Models

When the surgeon thinks that you might have some complications during surgery, or when your surgery will be performed at a teaching hospital, the 3D images taken with a 3D mammography machine can help construct a 3D model of your breast. The model, in turn, helps your surgeon and the surgeons-in-training decide how to best approach your surgery so that it benefits and protects you but avoids certain issues. This might be used when you have some scar tissue in the breast or have a suspected adhesion of scar tissue that might prevent the surgeon from removing tumors or lumps. The models help the surgeons practice how and where they will cut so that they can complete the surgery with few to no complications.

3D Images Can Help with Reconstructive Surgery Too

If you have an entire breast removed because of cancer, plus a small portion of the chest wall, you may need reconstructive surgery to feel whole again. The images taken of your breast and chest wall before the breast was removed will assist your doctor with reconstruction as they create a custom treatment plan to repair the remaining chest wall and prepare your chest to accept a newly sculpted breast made of abdominal fat and skin or a breast implant to create the appearance of a full, rounded breast or chest muscle. When the post-operative picture of reconstruction most closely matches that of your prior 3D image, the surgery will be a success.

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