2D vs. 3D Mammograms

When you schedule a mammogram at Denver Health, you can choose what type of screening is performed. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast that allows radiologists (doctors who interpret imaging exams) to find breast cancer early, when it is most likely to be treatable. You can select whether you want to receive a 2D or 3D mammogram when you arrive at the breast imaging center right before your screening appointment. This page explains the difference between the two screenings and answers some commonly asked questions.

Frequently Asked Questions about 2D and 3D Mammograms

How long do I have to wait for the results of a 2D or 3D mammogram?

Our average turn-around time for interpreting both 2D and 3D mammography screening exams is the same – typically less than one business day, which is well above the national average for breast imaging centers. In most cases, you can expect to have your exam reported within one day of having your mammogram at Denver Health.

What is the difference between a 2D and a 3D mammogram?

2D screening mammography, which has been the standard of care for decades, consists of taking two pictures of each breast during the screening exam. During a 3D mammogram (also known as digital breast tomosynthesis), we take multiple images of the breast from different angles using the same machine, which allows us to view thin slices of the breast at different depths. This allows us to distinguish suspicious findings more easily from normal overlapping breast tissue, which may prevent you from getting called back for additional breast imaging when it is not needed. Our goal with our imaging is to make for a comfortable experience. 3D mammography also allows us to better identify small cancers that become more noticeable on the thinner slices. This is particularly helpful for those with dense breasts, who are at a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer. Either exam takes about 10-15 minutes to complete, and both are nearly identical in how they are done.

Is a 3D mammogram better at detecting cancer than a 2D mammogram?

Radiologists have used 2D mammograms to identify breast cancer for decades and it remains an effective tool at identifying early breast cancer today. 3D mammograms provide additional information beyond the 2D mammogram that helps your radiologist potentially catch breast cancers earlier that may be hidden by dense breast tissue.

Who benefits the most from getting a 3D mammogram?

All patients benefit from 3D mammography, but particularly those with dense breasts. Breast density is the term used to describe the ratio of fibroglandular tissue to fatty tissue on a mammogram. Patients with a higher ratio of fibroglandular tissue are considered to have dense breasts, which is associated with increased breast cancer risk. Dense breast tissue may hide the presence of breast tumors, increasing the likelihood that a cancer may be missed on a mammogram. In addition, 3D mammograms allow radiologists to distinguish suspicious findings more easily from normal overlapping breast tissue.

Are both types of mammograms covered by insurance?

2D mammography is covered by all insurance plans for preventative screening. Most insurance plans also cover 3D mammography for preventative screening. We can give you guidance with most insurance plans when you come in for your screening. To confirm coverage ahead of your appointment, contact your insurance company and give them the CPT code for breast digital screening mammography: 77063.

Are self-payment options available?

Denver Health offers self-pay package options for our community to seek cost-effective care for 2D and 3D mammograms.

  • The self-pay package for a 2D mammogram is $175.
  • The self-pay package for a 3D mammogram is $275.

Denver Health recommends 3D mammography to all patients. “I recommend high-quality 3D mammography to increase our ability to detect cancers early and to limit unnecessary callbacks,” said Randy Miles, MD, M.PH., Denver Health Chief of Breast Imaging.

Denver Health’s breast imaging specialists are among the best in the country in detecting breast cancer early. Appointments for mammograms at Denver Health’s state-of-the-art Outpatient Medical Center are available within a week. To schedule your next mammogram, log into your MyChart account or call the mammography line at 303-602-4140.