HARLINGEN – New three-dimensional mammography technology which is now available in the Valley can provide clearer images for women with “dense” breast tissue. Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen is the only hospital in the Rio Grande Valley to offer this new technology.

The first 3-D “digital tomosynthesis” or “TOMO” mammography unit is now available at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen. The new machine provides more information for certain women who need a screening mammogram, said Rebecca Hernandez, RT(R)(M)(BS), Breast Center Supervisor at Valley Baptist-Harlingen.

“In some cases, this new mammography technique provides advantages, especially for women with dense breasts,” Ms. Hernandez added.

Joey Govea, Director of Radiology at Valley Baptist, said in some cases the new technology may allow radiologists at Valley Baptist to “see” breast cancers easier, especially in women with dense tissue. The clearer, more accurate pictures are produced because the image is 3-dimensional — like a box which can be seen from all sides — instead of 2-dimensional, like a rectangle on a flat piece of paper.

“The machine moves through a 30-degree sweep on its own, to create depth of field,” Mr. Govea said.

“It produces an image in which a suspicious finding is in focus, while the background is blurry, so the radiologist can ’zero in’ on the potential problem.”

With more information obtained from the first scan, physicians hope to eliminate many “false positive” results.

With non-tomographic mammography technique, if something was not clear in the picture, the woman may be called back for a second mammogram. This is especially true for women with dense breasts.

For many patients, going back for a second mammogram caused undue anxiety, with the patient worrying that she may have breast cancer — when in fact the first image just wasn’t clear enough for the physicians to make a definite determination.

“With the 3-D TOMO technology, we hope to eliminate many of these unneeded callbacks and biopsies, which can be very traumatic to women,” Ms. Hernandez said.

The 3-D mammography technique was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The new technique is an advance from digital mammography systems, which Valley Baptist introduced in Harlingen in 2005.

“Valley Baptist has been a pioneer in providing life-saving mammography services for the women of the Valley,” Mr. Govea added. “We purchased this new imaging technology to provide an ever higher level of service to our community.”

Breast cancer is a leading cause of death in American women. One in eight women will develop the disease at some point in her life. However, when breast cancer is detected early — often through the help of screening mammograms — it’s one of the most treatable forms of cancer.

The Breast Center at Valley Baptist is located on the first floor of the Valley Baptist Professional Building, 2101 Pease Street in Harlingen (Professional Building Entrance B).

A physician referral for a screening mammogram is not needed for women over age 40, but an appointment is required.

To schedule a mammogram, please call (956) 389-1852.

For more information on breast cancer and mammography, consult your physician and visit www.ValleyBaptist.net.