Technology that detects up to 40 percent more invasive cancer than traditional imaging is now available to women in Smyth County.

Three-dimensional breast mammography (3D mammography) is now available at Ballad Health’s Smyth County Community Hospital (SCCH). Three-dimensional digital mammography creates a more complete picture of breast health to help improve early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, and mammography continues to be the best first line of defense for screening.

“Nationally, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, which also affects family and friends," said James E. Tyler, chief executive officer of SCCH. "The diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer is a very important issue to me because my own family was forever affected by this devastating disease. With the new 3D Digital Mammography Unit and its fidelity and clarity of images, we will be able to identify breast cancer much earlier in its development. Catching the cancer earlier increases the likelihood of positive treatment outcomes."

Tyler lost his wife of more than two decades to breast cancer and his mother underwent a mastectomy.

Similar to any other mammogram, 3D mammography, also called 3D breast tomosynthesis or tomography, uses the same amount of compression and only takes minutes longer for an exam. The difference is the technology and information it provides. The new screening technology provides a three-dimensional image of the breast and allows the radiologist to take multiple pictures from various angles. Reviewing these images has helped doctors find more cancers than with 2D images alone.

While conventional 2D mammograms are effective at early detection, 3D technology has been especially beneficial in detecting very small cancers in women with dense breast tissue. “The 3D technology will benefit women in our community because it allows the breast to be examined in better detail,” said Dr. Dawn Holman, general surgeon, SCCH.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 3D Digital Mammography detects up to 40 percent more invasive cancer than conventional 2D mammography.

“Three-dimensional digital mammography is not only able to detect smaller cancers, but also is better at ruling out abnormalities,” Dr. Holman said. “When patients have dense or overlapping breast tissue, normal tissue that might look abnormal in 2D imaging and mistakenly identified as breast cancer can be more easily seen as normal with 3D mammography.

“With regular mammography, questionable areas require so much additional evaluation; women would have to go back for multiple other tests and repeat views. Not only would this be time consuming, but it would cause distress and concern as to what may be going on in the breast. With 3D technology, these questionable areas become better defined and this helps to avoid additional testing in many cases.”

“The 3D digital mammography unit will be a true asset in saving lives,” said Tyler. “Along with this cutting-edge technology, we have breast care specialists and expert radiologists to give patients the best care possible for screenings and treatment.”

Tyler has been working to bring the 3D digital mammography to Marion for at least two years. In 2017, he estimated the technology would cost about $400,000.

Appointments may be scheduled at 800-659-6762.

More information about Ballad Health’s breast centers and services can be found at

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