3D Mammography at St. Jude: Not your Mother's Mammogram

When it comes to diagnosing and treating breast cancer, the good news just keeps coming. One example is 3D mammography—also known as tomosynthesis or 3D breast imaging—a new technology that is significantly improving our ability to detect breast cancer earlier and with more accuracy.

Like traditional 2D mammograms, 3D mammography uses X-ray to create images of the breast. But 3D technology records images from more angles and uses high-powered computing to convert the images into a stack of very thin “slices”—allowing a radiologist to review each layer of the breast, one at a time.

“Think of the difference between being able to look through each page of a book, versus simply studying the cover,” explains Brenna Chalmers, MD, a board-certified diagnostic radiologist who
specializes in women’s imaging at the St. Jude Kathryn T. McCarthy Breast Center. “The information provided by 3D mammography is definitely better, and we’re grateful to the donors whose contributions totaling over $2.6 million to date have allowed us to acquire our first two units. With continued support from generous community members, we can acquire the remaining four systems needed to fully transition our breast program to 3D mammography.”

In fact, according to research, tomosynthesis detects 41 percent more invasive cancers than traditional mammography, while reducing the number of false positives by up to 40 percent.

“A 3D mammogram is more likely to get it right the first time, reducing unnecessary callbacks—a source of enormous anxiety for women,” says Dr. Chalmers, explaining that many false alarms on 2D mammograms simply represent normal areas of breast tissue superimposed on top of each other. “With 3D imaging, the area can be seen more clearly because the radiologists can see layer by layer through the tissue, rather than a flat, single picture of the breast.”

Of course, the value of any mammogram depends on the skill with which it’s read. “Any technology is only as good as the physician interpreting it,” explains Dr. Chalmers. “Look for a breast imaging center with radiologists who specialize in mammography. There is an accuracy that comes from specialization.”

Although surveys show women overestimate their chance of dying from breast cancer by a factor of 20, Dr. Chalmers urges women to be smart, not fearful. “Focus on minimizing your risk—through regular exercise and losing weight if needed—and getting routine screenings,” she explains. “The vast majority of women will never develop breast cancer, but for those who do, catching it early is the key to a cure.”

Scheduling a Mammogram is Easy

We make getting a mammogram convenient by offering screenings at three locations: Fullerton, Yorba Linda and Diamond Bar. Call (714) 446-5650 or request an appointment online: go to

The breast center offers convenience, comfort and the expertise of fellowship-trained radiologists who specialize in women’s imaging and technologists who have been certified in mammography.

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