Voice of technician: Hold Your breath.

Vivien Williams: At first glance, it looks like this patient is getting a typical mammogram to screen for breast cancer.

But this test includes new technology that allows doctors to see inside the breast more clearly than with standard mammography. Its called tomosynthesis.

Sandhya Pruthi, M.D. — Mayo Clinic Internal Medicine: Tomosynthesis is much like a mammogram, but what it's doing is it's taking additional pictures.

Vivien Williams: Mayo Clinic breast health specialist Dr. Sandhya Pruthi and Radiologist Dr. Tara Henrichsen say research shows tomosynthesis can detect at least 10-percent more breast cancers than standard mammography. That's especially important for women with dense breast tissue because both dense tissue and tumors show up white on mammograms. Cancers could be missed or women may have to be called back for additional imaging.

Tara Henrichsen, M.D. — Mayo Clinic Radiologist: This is an example where we have a traditional two-dimensional mammogram, showing a little area of questionable distortion, which would be a callback, but this patient also got a tomosynthesis, which is the additional projection images that show that this area is just a crossing region of tissue and there's nothing worrisome in this location at all.

Vivien Williams: Here tomosynthesis, which gives 3-dimensional information, eliminates the need for a callback for a false-positive result. In this next case, the technology reveals a cancer that a mammogram missed.

Tara Henrichsen, M.D.: This is another patient where we had a callback for a questionable new density in the outer breast. The patient returned and had tomosynthesis imaging as part of their workup because this was just a 2-D screening mammogram, and here on our tomosynthesis image we see that this is truly a mass lesion.

Sandhya Pruthi, M.D.: I'm offering it more to my patients, especially those who I feel have dense breast tissue or who are younger with risk factors.

Vivien Williams: Patients like Kate Manchester.

Kate Manchester: My mom was diagnosed when she was 38.

Vivien Williams: Others in her family had breast cancer too, which puts Kate at high risk. She recently started yearly screening with tomosynthesis.

Kate Manchester: That adds to the comfort level. Knowing that I'm doing everything in my power to prevent ending up with that diagnosis.

Vivien Williams: New screening technology that helps save lives. For the Mayo Clinic News Network, I'm Vivien Williams.

Dec. 11, 2014