SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- While researchers continue to explore new ways to prevent, detect, and treat breast cancer, local doctors say the real game changer right now is the 3-D mammogram.
"This is the latest and greatest machine out there," said Kelly Heard, Cox Health Breast Care Clinic Supervisor.
It's a state of the art tool that produces not only 3D mammograms, as well as even 3D biopsies now, it's producing the kind of early detection that saves lives.
"Very lucky to work in a field where you see miracles everyday," said Heard. "It's a great feeling."
Those miracles are happening because 3D technology makes it possible to see the depth of breast tissue, in slice by slice pictures like never before.
"I'm looking at slice one of 54 images," said Heard.
54 slices of breast tissue, any one of which could be hiding a cancerous change.
"We're able to see clean borders what we call speculations that look like radial tentacles come out to side indicative that's an area really changing in the breast," said Heard.
Changes that may have gone undetected without this technology. And 3D mammagrams are now more accessible than ever to women in Missouri. A year ago the state started requiring insurance companies cover 3D mammograms, getting rid of the surcharge women were having to pay for those tests. Now with almost all women having access to the advanced screening, doctors are seeing better outcomes.
"We're seeing smaller tumors, if they're smaller, diagnosed at earlier stage, usually less treatment and sometimes just surgery and a pill afterwards," said Dr. John Bumberry.
The 3D mammogram's success with earlier detection seems to be having an effect on the number of women getting screened. At Mercy Hospital's breast center volume is up by 30 percent this year.
And the Breast Care Clinic at Cox Health sees more than 100 patients a day here for a mammogram. Still studies show more than half of women who should be getting screened are not having any kind of mammogram, wasting the very best opportunity we've ever had to monitor our health.
"We see breast every day changes that happen year to year. I personally can't imagine going longer than that," said Bumberry.
Locally, doctors and nurses say the best guidelines are still for women over 40 to get a mammogram every year.
As part of our Buddy Check 3 program, we've teamed up with Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks, as well as Mercy AND Cox hospitals in the fight against breast cancer. Click HERE to sign up.