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Kansas City woman credits 3D mammogram for early breast cancer detection

3D mammograms helping doctors find smaller cancers and lead to less false positives
Posted at 5:35 AM, Oct 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-24 10:12:21-04

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, raising awareness on the disease impacting one in eight women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

Michelle Pruitt recalls the moment she learned she had breast cancer.

The healthy 63-year-old went in for her annual mammogram earlier this year and opted out for a 3D scan after doctors at Saint Luke's informed her it's covered by insurance.

"I've never taken a 3D (mammogram) before, I've always had the 2D and they explained a little bit more... said it is covered with insurance, so why wouldn't I?" Pruitt recalled.

After another scan, biopsy and ultrasound, Pruitt was diagnosed with breast cancer this summer.

"Walking out, you know you try to maintain your composure but by the time you get down to your car, you're in a different world," Pruitt explained.

In 2019, laws changed in both Missouri and Kansas to have 3D mammograms covered by insurance, and doctors with Saint Luke's say 3D mammograms are changing the way they detect breast cancer. Dr. Mary Mitchell, breast radiologist at Saint Luke’s Cancer Institute, says the images gives them a clearer image and lead to fewer false positives and call backs.

"Women who get 3D mammograms have a better chance of us finding their breast cancer early and when it's more treatable with less aggressive treatment," Dr. Mitchell said. "Breast cancer is very treatable. If we catch it early, we can use less aggressive treatment."

Early detection was key in Pruitt's diagnosis, she has undergone a double breast reduction, lumpectomy and radiation, but because her cancer was caught early on she won't have to undergo chemotherapy.

Depending on the patient and on the doctor, Dr. Mitchell recommends women who are over the age of 40 get a mammogram, but if there's a history of breast cancer in the family or if you're at a higher risk, those screenings may need to start sooner.

"Unfortunately, we do see breast cancer in women who are younger than 40, but at baseline starting at 40, getting them every year. That's what we recommend and that's going to find the most breast cancers and prevent the most deaths from breast cancer," Dr. Mitchell said.