SEATTLE -- There's a new tool for helping doctors diagnose breast cancer.
Called tomosynthesis, it's 3D digital technology that just might be able to catch cancer earlier than ever before. Already available in many clinics, the Seattle Cancer Alliance is now making it available in its mobile mammography vans.
SCCA and Safeway, a major donor to this program, cut the ribbon on the new van at the Admiral Safeway Store in West Seattle.
"The great advantage to digital breast tomosynthesis is that it will cut down on the rate of women receiving abnormal results from the mammograms when there's actually not anything wrong," said Julie Anne Black, Professional Services Liaison with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
It's different from traditional 2D mammography in how it takes images of the breast and what it then gives doctors to read. The tomosynthesis machine moves like a pivot, arching over the breast, scanning it to capture a large series of images.
A computer program then layers those thin images together to create a three dimensional view. The doctor can manipulate that view on the computer, layer by layer, which helps catch even the tiniest of abnormalities.
Dr. Janie Lee is the Breast Imaging Director at SCCA.
"Because we are able to look through the breast in layers we can more clearly see a cancer because the normal tissue in front of it and behind it is removed," Lee said.
Doctors say the 3D is so much better than 2D because it gives them just great detail and really lets them spot the differences between normal tissue and that which requires a second look. The other huge advantage is that this technology now moves around Puget Sound.
Black said it's hard for many women to get off work, find parking, catch a bus or arrange child care for an extended time, to reach a clinic for a mammogram. With this mobile unit all they have to do is check the calendar to find a location close and convenient for them.
The mobile Mammography vans travel all over the Puget Sound region, parking in various Safeway and UW Clinic parking lots.
And now with the affordable care act, Black said insurance must pay 100 percent of mammograms for women over age 40. It's best breast cancer screening tool available today. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, yet women are not being screened as often as they should or in some cases, not at all. One in four women over age 50 has never had a mammogram.
Click here to learn where the mobile units are parked and how to get an appointment: