No screening test is perfect, but a new study in the JAMA says a newer technology may be a powerful and more accurate tool in the fight against breast cancer.

It’s called “Tomosynthesis” but is better known in the medical world as a 3-D mammogram. The difference is that with a standard mammogram, the machine doesn’t move. With Tomosynthesis, the machine moves around the breast as it takes images—allowing different views with different angles—all in a 3-D series of pictures.

According to this research, there are two big advantages to this technique:

  1. It is more accurate, meaning it is more likely to find a problem when there is a problem
  2. It gives fewer false alarms, meaning it less likely to say there is a problem when there is none.

And don’t underestimate the importance of that second one. Millions of women each year are told they may have a tumor when they don’t—and that adds up to more tests, more biopsies, and more anxiety.

This one study is a good one—it included more than 450,000 women. That’s a good sample size. But one study is far from the final word. There needs to be more research, as well as more questions answered, including where you can find one of these 3-D machines, and how much will it add to the cost of imaging. Only one company makes this machine right now, even though the technology has been available since 2011.

There also needs more research on accuracy.

Nonetheless, this is good news, and a step in the right direction. Always a positive when it comes to women’s health.


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