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Study: 3D mammography has sharper results, likely improves breast cancer detection rates

A study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that 3D imaging is likely boosting the accuracy of mammogram screenings.

Researchers used data collected from 13 medical centers that had replaced X-ray mammograms with 3D imaging, or tomosynthesis, which is similar to a CT scan. They looked at the results from when the centers used just X-ray mammography, and then when they were using both mammograms and tomosynthesis. What they found was a 15 percent decrease in follow-up appointments for more imaging when tomosynthesis was used, and a 41 percent increase in the detection of possibly lethal cancers. The 3D imaging was also able to spot very small and aggressive tumors that might otherwise be overlooked.

"The significance of the tomosynthesis study is that it fundamentally changes the discussion about mammography," Dr. Margarita Zuley, medical director of breast imaging at the Magee Women's Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told NBC News. "The controversy started roaring over the last two years. But now the risk-benefit ratio has shifted. I think this is a real game-changer in the discussion." Read more about the study and the new 3D technology at NBC News.