Cascade Medical launches Upper Valley’s first 3D mammography

Mammographer Holly Blue and a patient next to the new 3D mammography unit.

More than 50 women have experienced 3D mammography since its premiere at Cascade Medical in late March.

“The reviews have been very positive,” Lead Mammographer Holly Blue said. “We’ve heard it’s a more comfortable exam, and I think women have been surprised by the ease of it. They’re in and out in 20 minutes, without feeling rushed.”

The new technology is designed to provide a clearer image of the breast, which allows radiologists to diagnose cancer at its earliest stages. The mammogram is produced with hundreds of images layered together into a three-dimensional reconstruction of the breast, which radiologist page through one slide at a time or as an interactive animation.

Compared to a traditional mammogram, 3D mammography increases the detection rate of invasive cancer by 43 percent, according to Siemens, maker of the equipment.

“It’s big-hospital technology, with a more relaxed experience,” Radiology Director Scott Mitchell said. “We meet or exceed the same standards as Confluence, Swedish and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. I’m proud that we can provide that peace of mind for women in our community.”

This year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated all mammograms to include a breast density report for each patient. The new equipment meets that requirement, and automatically adjusts compression based on breast density for the greatest amount of comfort.

For women ages 50 to 74, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends a mammogram once every two years. For younger and older women, the decision is a personal one. 3D mammography is recommended for women with dense breasts, whose cancer risk is four times higher. 

Most insurance plans cover 3D mammography, but check with your insurance provider in advance. Cascade Medical also offers 2D mammography by request.

The investment was made possible by the Cascade Medical Foundation, and with community support. The Foundation’s biggest fundraiser is the Cascade Classic Golf Tournament on June 17 in Leavenworth.

Cascade Medical has offered mammography since 2005 and performs about 350 mammograms a year, Mitchell said. The program is accredited by the American College of Radiology.

Watch an example of a 3D mammogram image here: