The Benefits of 3D Automated Whole Breast Ultrasounds

Medical machine next to a patient in an examination room

When it comes to breast cancer, catching the disease early can save countless lives. Getting screened regularly is important for early detection. During a breast cancer screening, your doctor will check for signs of breast cancer, like lumps or changes in breast tissue. There are a few methods for screening for breast cancer, including feeling the breast tissue or performing a mammogram.

If your doctor notices something that concerns them during these screenings, or if mammography isn’t effective for you, your doctor may ask you to get supplemental testing. One of these other screening tests is a 3D automated whole breast ultrasound (3D ABUS). Read on to learn more about 3D ABUS, what makes it a great option for many women, and if this type of screening is right for you. 

What is a 3D Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound?

An automated whole breast ultrasound is a newer type of medical technology developed to screen for breast cancer in women, especially those women who have dense breast tissue. Ultrasounds use sound waves to look at the tissue inside your breast. The soundwaves come together to form an image that is then interpreted by a radiologist.

There are a few instances where a 3D ABUS may be used. Sometimes, if your doctor has noticed a change in your breast tissue during a mammogram or while feeling your breasts, they may recommend that you get a 3D ABUS. 3D ABUS may also be used in cases where mammography is not effective in screening for breast cancer, like in women with dense breast tissue.

Mammography is still the gold standard in screening for breast cancer, and a 3D ABUS shouldn’t necessarily replace your annual mammogram. Instead, it can be a supplemental screening tool for women with dense breast tissue. In women with dense breasts, the risk for breast cancer is higher, and mammograms may miss small tumors in these women. Getting a 3D ABUS in addition to a mammogram can provide peace of mind and an extra layer of protection against breast cancer, and can increase the likelihood that, if cancer is present, it will be caught at an early stage. 

During the procedure, the patient lays down, and a noninvasive ultrasound machine is used to scan the breasts, while gently holding them in place, which takes just a few minutes for each breast. A 3D ABUS quickly takes a series of hundreds of three-dimensional images of your breast in “slices.” When the scan is complete, an expert radiologist interprets your scan, looking for abnormalities while taking into account your personal health history. Your doctor will then discuss your results with you.

What are the Benefits of a 3D Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound?

Now that you know what a 3D ABUS is and how it’s performed, why do some women opt to get regular 3D ABUS? 3D ABUS have been growing in popularity, and for good reason. They offer plenty of benefits for women, including:

  • -Safe – mammography uses radiation, but ultrasound does not, meaning that 3D ABUS are safer especially for pregnant women. 
  • -Painless – some women report that they experience pain or discomfort during procedures like mammograms. 3D ABUS, on the other hand, are painless, even for those with sensitive breasts.
  • -Quick – the entire process of a 3D ABUS takes just a few minutes in your doctor’s office. The automated machine is quicker than an ultrasound operator using a manual wand. 
  • -Effective – mammography is notoriously inadequate at screening for breast cancer in women with dense breasts. 3D ABUS do a much better job at spotting up to a third more cancer cases.
  • -State-of-the-art – 3D ABUS technology was developed specifically for increasing accuracy in breast cancer ultrasounds.
  • -Fast results – one of the biggest benefits of a 3D ABUS is that you get your results quickly, usually within 48 hours. 

In addition to screening for breast cancer, 3D ABUS can also help doctors get a complete picture of breast tissue in patients who are about to undergo surgery or need to be monitored. 3D imaging helps doctors and other healthcare practitioners clearly visualize tumors, cysts, or other issues. This technology can boost doctor’s confidence and effectiveness during treatment.

Female doctor analyzing her patient's breast ultrasound results.
Doctor analyzing breast ultrasound results.

Is a 3D Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound Right for you?

If you’re at risk for breast cancer due to dense breast tissue or a family history of cancer, getting a 3D ABUS in addition to your yearly mammogram can help detect cancer at a higher rate than just a mammogram alone. About half of all women have dense breast tissue, so this safe, effective technology can benefit many women. If you aren’t sure if your breast tissue is considered dense, or have questions about a 3D ABUS, a radiologist will be able to tell you more details.

As with any procedure, you should always discuss the pros and cons with a trusted doctor before making an appointment to get a 3D ABUS. While a 3D ABUS is a safe, painless, and fast procedure, it may not be appropriate for some patients. And like any procedure, there is always a margin of error. The more testing you get, the greater your risk for false positive results. A false positive may require you to get further, more invasive screening processes which can mean unnecessary worry and stress for the patient.   

Schedule your Screening Today!

If you have dense breast tissue and are worried about your regular mammogram missing the early signs of breast cancer, talk to your doctor about getting a 3D ABUS. The team at Women’s Imaging Specialists is proud to offer many options for screening and diagnostic testing, and our office can provide you with a safe, comfortable place to receive care.

With multiple locations throughout Georgia and Alabama, we offer a range of services that is sure to meet your needs. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about breast cancer screening or the 3D ABUS process. Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information. One of our team members will be glad to help!