Healthy Living: 3D Mammograms help with early detection

BURIEN, Wash. -- October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and it’s pretty safe to say we have all been impacted by the disease in one way or another, as one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed in her lifetime, and 1 percent of men will also hear the words “you have breast cancer.”

Dianne Munroe went in for a mammogram after her softball incident more than two decades ago and has been getting screenings every year since.

“This is a test that people maybe don’t keep on their radar as much as your other tests," Munroe said.

While one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed in her lifetime, Diane didn’t have any family history of the disease and she was getting regular checks.

“I didn’t expect it. I didn’t think I had any risk factors or anything," she said.

Technology in the fight against breast cancer changed her outcome.

“Thankfully because of this machine it was very early stage breast cancer," she said.

It was Dianne’s first time using the 3D mammography machine, but it would not be her last visit to CHI Franciscan’s Highline Medical Center that year.

“Detection one day and then you know," she said.

Her treatment plan was mapped out by her doctors almost instantly.

“Within about a month we knew what we were doing, we knew what I had and we were scheduling surgery for a lumpectomy.”

Her doctor explains why the machine helped Diane.

“She has more dense breast tissue, and that really did help detect her early stage breast cancer," said Dr. Ani Fleisig.

Fleisig says the 3D technology is especially important for women with dense breast tissue, which usually occurs with younger women. She says the tech allows doctors to look deeper.

“Instead of having just one piece of paper in terms of the mammogram, 3D uses digital technology to make essentially a 3D reconstruction. So instead of one page, you are actually looking at pages, like as if you are looking at a book. You can see every every layer.”

Dr. Fleisig says this 3D technology has been proven to be more successful than the traditional 2D mammograms in early detection.

“Whenever you can find something that’s smaller, that usually indicates that it’s earlier stage, and when you can detect something, earlier stage patients have better overall outcomes," Fleisig said.

Munroe says not to be intimidated by the 3D machine.

“It feels the same. It’s exactly like any other mammography, it’s just that the technology was more advanced. It gives the doctor a better opportunity to look at your breasts," she said.

“I think for me personally it has given me an opportunity to look at life differently… I don’t take it for granted anymore," Munroe said.

Her outlook on life shifted, and she hopes her story will help shift yours, too.

“Early detection’s the way to go, and don’t be afraid of the machine, and don’t be afraid of the process. Just get it done and go on and live a long, healthy life," Munroe said.

Dr. Fleisig says talk with your health care provider about when to start screening; most women start annual screenings between 40 and 45 years old.

She also says in the fight against breast cancer, lifestyle modification can help. Have a healthy diet, minimize processed foods and alcohol intake, quit smoking tobacco and get in a good workout 3 to 4 times a week.