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Mammogram or 3D Mammogram: How Do I Choose?

If you are 40 or older, your medical provider will probably recommend a yearly mammogram. Regular mammograms help find breast cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most likely to be successful.  

But if given a choice between a mammogram and a 3D mammogram, how do you choose? Here’s some information to help you decide. 

Mammogram (sometimes called Digital Mammogram or 2D Mammogram)

A screening mammogram is an X-ray picture of each breast taken from two angles. It is typically done to check for breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms of cancer.


3D Mammogram

A 3D mammogram complements a standard mammogram and is done at the same time. During the 3D part of the exam, the X-ray arm sweeps in a slight arc over your breast taking multiple breast images. A computer then produces a 3D image of your breast tissue in one millimeter slices, which allows the radiologist (the doctor reading your images) to see the breast in more detail. 3D mammograms are particularly useful to screen women that have dense breast tissue.


A mammogram usually takes between 10-15 minutes. Your breast will be placed between an adjustable platform and a clear plate. Brief pressure is applied to flatten the breast tissue in order to get the clearest picture.


3D Mammogram

A 3D mammogram complements a standard mammogram and is done at the same time. There is no additional compression required. It only takes a few more seconds.

According to the American College of Radiology (ACR), mammograms require very small doses of radiation. The risk of harm from this radiation exposure is low, but repeated x-rays have the potential to cause cancer. Although the potential benefits of mammography nearly always outweigh the potential harm from the radiation exposure, women should talk with their health care providers about the need for each x-ray. In addition, they should always let their health care provider and the x-ray technologist know if there is any possibility that they are pregnant, because radiation can harm a growing fetus.


If you are 40 or over, your insurance is likely to cover your mammogram.


3D Mammogram
There may be an additional cost for a 3D mammogram. Before your exam, check with your insurance provider or the center where you are having your exam.

Choosing a traditional mammogram or a 3D mammogram is up to you. The most important thing is to choose and be screened.

NOTE: Annual mammograms are recommended for women beginning at age 40, according to the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI). The American Cancer Society also recommends that women have the choice to begin mammography screening at age 40. For the complete, updated ACS guidelines, click here. Then, talk with your provider to find out what's best for you.

Learn more about breast imaging in your local area or call a center near you to schedule your annual mammogram.