Op-Ed: 3D Mammograms are More Accurate – So Why Don’t all Women Have Access?

By Dr. Jack Moss and Carrie Cagnassola

Early detection saves lives. With one in eight women developing breast cancer during her lifetime, earlier detection means a better prognosis.

Luckily for women, early detection has improved in recent years with new and improved breast cancer screening exams. One of the most remarkable advances we’ve seen is the arrival of a new digital technology, breast tomosynthesis, also known as 3D mammography. 

3D mammography is a more accurate mammogram that provides remarkably clear images of a patient’s breast tissue. This means fewer false alarms and improved detection of early breast cancers resulting in improved patient outcomes. Given the benefits, we think it’s incredibly important that private insurance companies cover this important exam so all women can benefit. 

Jack Moss is a radiologist at Indianapolis-based Northwest Radiology. “From a medical perspective, this technology is completely changing the way we diagnose and treat breast cancer. As a diagnostic radiologist specializing in mammography, 3D mammography has proven to be one of the most promising tools in our breast cancer detection arsenal. Large-scale studies have demonstrated its benefit, and we have witnessed the power of 3D first hand by identifying breast cancers that would have been missed on conventional imaging. 

Since FDA approval of the technology in 2011, multiple studies have shown that 3D mammograms provide greater accuracy than 2D mammograms alone. Doctors can now look at a patient’s breast tissue layer-by-layer, which is especially helpful for women with dense breasts. With this technology, fewer women are recalled due to inconclusive images, saving them the inconvenience, cost and anxiety of needless follow up visits. It also helps find cancers that might be obscured by or look like normal tissue. In fact, 3D mammography has shown a 41 percent increase in the invasive cancer detection rate when compared to conventional mammograms.

Carolyn, an Indianapolis resident, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. “From a patient perspective, this technology is completely changing the patient experience. Last year, I was diagnosed with stage 3A breast cancer after receiving “normal” 2D mammograms. Since 2011, I received a mammogram as frequently as every six months. Every time I was called back for a second look, every time I waited with anxiety, and every time I was sent away with a normal report. I had dense breast tissue and my tumor was missed. I had a false sense of security. I wish I had access to 3D mammography.” 

This technology is a game-changer for women. While Medicare has decided to cover this exam, some private insurance companies, like Indianapolis-based Anthem, are not covering these new mammograms, limiting women’s access to them. Women deserve better than this.

3D mammography also leads to significant cost savings for insurance companies due to the reduced callbacks and additional testing; a recent study showed a large health plan could save more than two million dollars per year! 3D mammography saves money while improving care for women, so what are insurance companies waiting for? 

3D mammography is a victory for women, but women need access to this better exam.   Please take a few moments and make your voice heard. Go to www.covermy3d.com and click on your insurance carrier to make a direct impact. After all, this improved exam can only detect more cancers if women have access to it.