By early December, Elmore Community Hospital in Wetumpka will offer 3D mammography, also known as digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT). The machine, which is the latest technology in mammography, allows patients to receive more conclusive results on their health.

“That is very important for women who have very dense breasts,” hospital radiology director Leigh Richardson, said, “also, women with implants or a known area that needs a better image. The machine will give the radiologist a better image of the lump or area that looks suspicious. This will save women a lot of unnecessary biopsies.”

The current 2D machine is around two years old and will be taken to Lake Martin Community Hospital in Dadeville which does not currently offer mammography services.

3D mammography is considered the newest technology in breast imaging, Richardson said. The machine takes images of each breast from multiple angles with an X-ray machine that moves in a 30-degree arc. 

Studies have shown 3D imaging as opposed to 2D can be up to 30% more accurate at catching cancer early on, which in turn improves the rate of breast cancer survivors, mentioned in a recent study conducted by Duke University Health System.

According to GE, manufacturer of the machine the hospital will use, patients receive an extremely low radiation dose when compared to other commonly used brand name machines.

The end result is a detailed picture used to identify the precise location of any tumors or microcalcifications, which are small calcium deposits that are common and usually benign.

In the event a suspicious area needs additional studies, the radiology department at the hospital provides services onsite for those studies.

“We offer ultrasound, diagnostic mammograms, spot compression views, magnification views and we do have two general surgeons on staff here so we can perform ultrasound-guided and mammo-guided biopsies,” Richardson said.

According to ultrasound tech Robin Bush, usually the first step after something questionable is found on an image is for the patient to have an ultrasound study.

“We can usually tell if what is on the image is a simple cyst, a solid mass that has shadowing but it could be more solid which means the patient probably needs a biopsy,” Bush said. “Ultrasound can tell us a lot and it is completely safe. There is no radiation.”

Over Richardson’s career, she has seen radiology technology improve by leaps and bounds.

“Mammography has really changed from the days when we used blue dye in mammography and days of the dark room,” Richardson said. “Now everything is digital and it has made it easier for everybody.

“We want to provide excellent service to the community and this new machine will help us deliver on that. Also, this will save the tri-county community from driving to Montgomery or Birmingham.”