Written for Mediaplanet’s Women’s Health campaign published in Maclean’s magazine in March 2016.
New medical imaging is taking mammography from 2D to 3D, providing physicians with a better picture of cancer.
The main screening tool for breast cancer, one of the most common cancers among Canadian women, is currently 2D mammography, which takes two X-ray images of the flattened breast. However, the results are not always clear.
“On a mammogram, fat looks black and normal breast tissues (glandular and fibrous) are white,” explains Dr. Paula Gordon, Medical Director at B.C. Women’s Hospital Breast Health Program. “But cancer is also white.”
If a patient’s cancer is surrounded by normal tissue, it can be more difficult or impossible to detect using a 2D mammogram. Studies indicate that 2D mammography will miss cancers in approximately 2 out of every 10 patients.“It’s like looking for a snowman in a snowstorm,” Dr. Gordon says.