Published on April 08, 2022

Advances in breast imaging bring peace-of-mind

Beth Lee, Imaging Technologist, guiding a patient through her 3D mammogram at the Ridgeview Women’s Imaging and Breast Center in Waconia.

“It’s probably nothing.” Those words held little comfort for Kim L., Minnetrista, after her doctor had identified a suspicious lump in one of her breasts at a routine physical. In 2021, she was only 37 years old and had yet to have a mammogram.

Although nervous, Kim was surprised during her visit with the Ridgeview Imaging Department that much of her expectations were false.

“From everything I had heard over the years, I anticipated that the mammogram would hurt quite a bit. Sure, it was uncomfortable, but it was not necessarily painful like I expected. The technologist was very gentle and patient,” said Kim.

Comprehensive imaging for conclusive results  

At her appointment, Kim had the option for a 2D mammogram, which was fully covered by her insurance or to opt for a 3D mammogram and pay the difference out of pocket. 2D mammograms take pictures of each breast from the front and the side to create a single image of each breast, while 3D mammograms take many pictures of each breast from different angles, showing each layer of breast tissue.

According to Ridgeview’s Director of Imaging Cindy Steenstra, “Since Kim’s appointment, most insurances now fully cover 3D imaging, especially if you have a family history of breast cancer or have dense breasts. About 80 percent of the women we see choose to have a 3D mammogram over 2D.”

Following her 3D mammogram, the radiologist also ordered a breast ultrasound for Kim. “Having multiple tests ordered made me nervous,” she admitted. “However, my results were negative, and I understand now how common it is to have different types of images taken to get conclusive results.”

Same-day mammogram results

“I had expected to go home and wait days for results, so I was so pleased that the radiologist went over everything right away and gave me immediate results,” said Kim. In as many cases as possible, Ridgeview patients receive imaging and mammography results during―or on the day of―their scheduled appointments.

Kim learned at her mammogram that she has dense breasts, with a lot of glandular tissue. Roughly half of all women are considered to have dense breasts. Dense breasts make it harder for doctors to see breast cancer on mammograms, and women with dense breasts may have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Annual mammogram screenings at age 40

Ridgeview recommends an annual mammogram for women beginning at the age of 40 to check for any signs of early breast cancer. Talk to your provider if you have questions regarding the right time for you to schedule your first mammogram.

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