Health Power’s President, Dr. Goodwin interviews Dr. Sally Friedewald, Chief of Breast and Women’s Imaging at Northwestern Memorial Hospital about the new FDA-approved Genius 3D Mammography exam, the first and only advanced mammogram for women with dense breasts. Dr. Friedewald discusses why the Genius exam improves cancer detection, and reduces recall rates for all women.
Health Power – Good morning. I am looking forward to our discussion about the 3D mammography procedure for dense breasts. Would you give me a sense of what the approach is.
Dr. Friedewald – Sure. Some women who have dense breasts cause more challenges for radiologists in reading their mammograms, so the 3D mammography is a technique where the radiologist can see through dense breast tissue more easily.
Health Power – When you say 3D mammography, is there some special approach to this process?
Dr. Friedewald – Most women won’t notice a difference when they get their mammogram. The machine is different, but tissue still needs to be placed under compression and one gets more information through dense breast tissue.
Health Power – Is it more painful?
Dr. Friedewald – It’s really about the same. The technique is very similar but the breast compression is important for us. Also, there cannot be any motion on the examination, just like with a picture. If it is blurry, one can miss a cancer.
So the compression is the same, but overall there really isn’t much significant difference. But radiologists gather more information, and there are many more pictures to go through at the time of interpretation.
Health Power – What do you have to do to prepare the patient? In other way, What do you tell the patient?
Dr. Friedewald – We want patients to get mammograms every year, beginning at age 40, because it has been shown that in 7 randomized controlled trials, which represent the gold standard for research, we save lives when we screen women beginning at age 40, every year.
So just go to your physician and get a specific request for a 3D mammography. Patients then can check with a breast center and find out if they have the 3D technology.
Health Power – Is the 3D technology available everywhere?
Dr. Friedewald – It is available in all 50 states, and actually has been approved by the FDA since 2011, but our research is showing that it is superior compared to 2D mammography, particularly in women with dense breasts.
Health Power – Is there any difference in dense breasts according to age, race, ethnicity and so forth?
Dr. Friedewald – Many women can have dense breasts. Actually, about 50% of women who are of screening age have dense breasts, but it is more common in women who are younger, so as you get older the breast tissue elements are replaced with fat and therefore we have an easier time to see potentially small cancer(s) that way.
That doesn’t mean if you are older, you have fatty breasts. I have seen plenty of women in their 80’s that have dense breast tissue. You won’t really know until you get your first mammogram and the radiologist will describe your breast density in their report.
Health Power – So when you get that first mammogram, if the breasts are dense the radiologist will let you know.
Dr. Friedewald – Yes they will let you know, but we have found that the 3D mammography is really beneficial for everybody, but it’s particularly good for women who have dense breasts. So just because a woman has fatty breasts doesn’t mean she shouldn’t get the 3D mammogram. We encourage as many women as possible to get it.
Health Power – Is the 3D mammography largely available across the country?
Dr. Friedewald – It is available in all 50 states and most insurance companies are now covering it, because they see the significant benefit it provides for the patient. However, some insurance companies don’t cover it, so it’s important for women to check with their carrier to make sure that they cover 3D mammography. If they don’t cover it, I encourage patients to reach out to them and let them know about it and let them know they would like to have 3D mammography.
Health Power – Is 2D the basic?
Dr. Friedewald – That’s a regular digital, standard mammogram that has been around for a long time.
Health Power – Ideally then, a woman should check first to find out if the place she’s planning to go to has 3D mammograms?
Dr. Friedewald – That is correct.
Health Power – Is there anything else in particular that we need to make my Health Power audience aware of?
Dr. Friedewald – For more information, women can go the website genius3dnearme.com and find out if their breast center has the 3D technology. Patients can also go to the American College of Radiology website which is acr.org to find out more about screening in general.
Health Power – This is very helpful information which I am pleased to share with my Health Power audience.
Dr. Friedewald – Thank you for having me.
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