Yale researchers find more women receiving 3D mammography

Published June 21, 2019

Use of 3-D mammography, an advanced form of breast cancer screening, has risen rapidly in recent years, according to Yale researchers in a new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. But adoption of the technology varies widely.

Three-D mammography, commonly called digital breast tomosynthesis or DBT, combines low-dose X-rays with software that creates a 3-D image of the breast. Compared to 2-D mammography, DBT may make it easier for radiologists to detect an abnormality. Organizations like the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society, which provide guidance to clinicians about cancer screening, have not made recommendations for or against the routine use of DBT. 

As a participant in the BCBS Alliance for Health Research, Yale researchers examined BCBS claims data in a HIPAA compliant secure environment. Their investigation included more than 9 million screening exams performed over three years. They also compared DBT use with privately-insured versus Medicare-insured patients.

Yale researchers found that DBT use rose substantially, from 12.9% to 43.2% of screening exams between 2015 and 2017. In some areas of the country, it is rarely used while in others, it is the predominant mode of screening.  Adoption of DBT varied greatly by region and demographics. Use of the technology grew more quickly in the Northeast and Northwest but more slowly in the Southeast. 

“Although there is a lot of interest in this new technology, we don’t know much about how it will affect the long-term health of women,” said corresponding author Ilana Richman, M.D., assistant professor in the Section of General Internal Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine. More research is needed to determine the true impact of this technology on breast cancer mortality, said the researchers.

To access the full study, please click here. (Note: Subscription access is required)

Read more: Yale researchers compare impact of state notification laws on breast cancer detection rates.

About the BCBS Alliance for Health Research

The BCBS Alliance was established in 2016 to engage leading U.S. health care researchers to explore key questions and topics using BCBS Axis data. The researchers involved in this program come together periodically to share insights and discuss critical health and health system issues, helping advance improvements in health care nationwide. Participants in the BCBS Alliance include: Harvard University, Princeton University, Rice University, Scripps Research Translational Institute, Stanford University, University of California Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Oklahoma and Yale University.

About the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans. BCBSA provides health care insights through The Health of America Report series and the national BCBS Health Index. For more information on BCBSA and its member companies, please visit bcbs.com. We also encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube and follow us on Twitter.