Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT)

Digital breast tomosynthesis (say "toh-moh-SIN-thuh-suss") uses X-rays to create a three-dimensional image of the breast. It may be used along with a digital mammogram or by itself.

This test is done with equipment much like that used for digital mammograms. The breast is positioned in a similar way but without having to be squeezed flat. An X-ray tube moves around the breast taking images that are sent to a computer. A computer program assembles all of the images into one three-dimensional (3-D) picture.

Women who get DBT are less likely to need repeat breast screening tests. DBT has been FDA-approved but is not yet widely available. Studies show that this technology works well to screen for breast cancer, but the studies did not include women with large breasts, women who have had breast biopsies, or women with breast implants.

When used by itself, DBT exposes a woman to less radiation than a mammogram. But DBT is often used along with a digital mammogram. Together they are called a 3-D mammogram. A 3-D mammogram exposes a woman to almost twice as much radiation as a digital mammogram does.

Current as of: November 20, 2015

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology