3-D Mammograms come to Central New York

Crouse Hospital is installing a new 3-D mammogram machine which should speed up detection of breast cancer

Crouse Hospital in Syracuse is in the process of installing a new system for mammograms, with a Massachusetts company's equipment that sees the breast exams in 3-D.

Dr. Stephen Montgomery, Mammographer at Crouse Breast Imaging, says 'The prospect of being able to find a small tumor that has been obscured by other tissue, is very exciting to us.' To a woman getting the test, it is not a major change from the mammogram procedure now. The machine does move a big, but the breast compression procedure is the same.

We got a quick look on Tuesday morning, and even to the untrained, the advantages are obvious. At first glance, the 3-D image is fuzzy, until you realize you're looking at the skin of the breast and the definition is good enough to even see the pores of the skin.

The scan produces thin section images a millimeter thick at a time. We looked at a 2-d image of a woman's breast, with a tumor removed. The edge of the cavity is fuzzy. In 3-D, the edges are crystal clear, and definitive proof that there's no new cancer.

"One challenge in breast imaging has been to find tumors when they're as small as possible,' says Dr. Montgomery, and he has one word for results he's seen while in training: wow.

The 3-D system will also help mammographers with the new NY State Breast Density Inform bill. It requires mammogram providers to state whether your breast tissue is dense, believed an indicator of breast cancer risk. Until now, Montgomery says, it has been a judgement call by the mammographer, but the Tomosynthesis equpment classifies breast density on a number scale, so there's a definitive answer. He says the new system should allay women's fears.

The new machine is not cheap: it costs a half million dollars, but was bought with funding from the St. Agatha Foundation, founded by a local woman who lost her fight against breast cancer. Montgomery says the foundation will also pay for women who cannot afford the more expensive testing, and he will work extra he says, to make the new technology available to any patient who wants it. Crouse Breast Imaging serves about 19-thousand patients a year, now.

Crouse's Tomosynthesys system will be up and running in early March. The mammography technicians start their training on Wednesday. Adina Elliott tells us the procedure is basically the same. Penny Breen says it's just a matter of learning the new touch screen controls. The three doctors at Crouse who read mammograms have been trained, at Massachusetts General Hospital, which has pioneered the program, based on Hologic Company's equipment, also built in Massachusetts. Upstate University Hospital has also installed a 3-D Mammogram system, which is already up and running.