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3D Mammograms

Early detection is the best defense you have against breast cancer.

Low-dose breast tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography, at UVA Health creates 3D breast scans that help doctors detect breast cancer earlier than previously possible.

Early detection is the best defense you have against breast cancer.

How Low-Dose Breast Tomosynthesis Works

Traditional Mammograms

Traditional mammography is two-dimensional (2D), or flat. Breast tissue is made up of pockets of dense tissue surrounded by fat. On a mammogram, the tissues overlap and this can mimic or even hide breast cancer.

3D Mammograms

With three-dimensional mammography, a computer produces a 3D image of your breast tissue. This reduces the need for you to return for extra images with a diagnostic mammogram and may help improve breast cancer detection.

  • At UVA Health, you'll get low-dose breast tomosynthesis. A computer performs a 3D mammogram and additionally creates a traditional 2D mammogram from the 3D scan, which gives doctors more data than they'd get with just a traditional 2D mammogram.
  • Low-dose breast tomosynthesis reduces your amount of radiation exposure compared with traditional tomosynthesis (which requires taking separate 2D and 3D mammograms); because the computer creates the 2D mammogram from the 3D scan, you don't also have to take a traditional 2D mammogram.
  • During the 3D exam, the X-ray arm of the machine sweeps over the breast and takes multiple images in seconds.
  • The procedure takes about as long as a traditional mammogram.

Will It Hurt? You may experience some discomfort or pain, similar to what you'd feel with a traditional mammogram.

What Kind of Radiation Exposure is There? With low-dose breast tomosynthesis, the radiation exposure is about equal to that of a standard mammogram.

Who Should Get a Low-dose Tomosynthesis Exam?

  • All women can benefit from 3D mammography.
    • For about 90 percent of women, breast cancer detection is improved by using 3D mammography (by about 30 percent over traditional 2D mammography).
    • For the remaining 10 percent of women with extremely dense breast tissue, 3D mammography doesn't significantly improve breast cancer detection, but it does reduce false-positive recalls (by about 15-30 percent compared with 2D mammograms).

3-D is available at UVA Health Culpeper Medical Center, Haymarket Medical Center and Prince William Medical Center. Talk to your doctor to see if this new technology is right for you.


Many insurance providers do cover the costs of 3D mammograms. We recommend you contact your insurance provider for more information regarding coverage. There's an $95.00 self-pay fee for 3D mammography.