New technology detects breast cancer earlier and easier

University Hospitals Breast Health Center is one of the only providers in Northeast Ohio to offer an exciting, leading-edge new technology – called tomosynthesis – to enhance the effectiveness of breast cancer screenings in women at average risk for the disease. Tomosynthesis is a new, more refined type of mammography that produces high-quality 3-D images of the breast.

“Tomosynthesis helps us detect cancers earlier and reduces the need for additional scans,” says Donna Plecha, MD, Director of Breast Imaging at the Breen Breast Health Pavilion at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

How it works: Tomosynthesis screenings are performed with traditional mammography during the same breast compression. First, the breast is compressed. Then, the machine’s X-ray tube makes an arc over the patient, taking a series of images or “slices” – nearly 200 one-millimeter thick images for an average-sized breast – from different angles in just seconds. Computer software then assembles the slices into 3-D views of the breasts. Doctors can examine and manipulate the entire image, as well as individual slices.

“Using these tests together results in much more thorough exams for women,” Dr. Plecha says. “And with fewer callbacks, women have less anxiety, less discomfort and less time off from work.”

Age 20-39 40-49 50-75 76+
Breast self-exam Monthly Monthly Monthly Monthly
Clinical breast exam by a doctor Every 3 years Yearly Yearly Yearly
Mammogram ---- Yearly Yearly Based on physician recommendation

A baseline mammogram is recommended for women at age 40. Our physicians recommend annual screening mammograms for women older than age 40, regardless of risk factors. More than 70 percent of women who develop breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease.

UH Expertise

UH Case Medical Center participated in a national study, funded by Hologic, Inc., evaluating the effectiveness of tomosynthesis. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the device last year.

“We hope this technology will help us save even more lives,” Dr. Plecha says. She says it is vital that women have annual breast screenings starting at age 40.

“It is not yet possible to prevent breast cancers, but tomosynthesis helps us find them early, when we have a very good chance of curing them,” Dr. Plecha says.

Tomosynthesis services are available at the Breen Breast Health Pavilion at UH Case Medical Center, UH Breast Center at University Hospitals Chagrin Highlands Health Center and will soon be available at UH Breast Center at University Hospitals Westlake Health Center.

Medicaid and insurance plans cover the cost of screening mammograms. Patients pay a nominal cost for the tomosynthesis portion of the test only.

Benefits of tomosynthesis

Tomosynthesis takes images from multiple angles and uses computer processing to synthesize them into a 3-D image of the breast. The resulting advantages include:

  • Better visualization
  • Easier detection
  • Earlier detection
  • Fewer callbacks

Mammography is the key to early detection; tomosynthesis is enhanced mammography.

Call 1-866-UH4-CARE to schedule an appointment.

plecha-donnaDonna Plecha, MD
Director of Breast Imaging, UH Breen Breast Health Pavilion at UH Case Medical Center
Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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