Pros and Cons of 3D Tomosynthesis Mammography Machines

This article has been updated 13-09-2023

In this article we will go over some of the main pros and cons of 3D tomosynthesis mammography machines, also called 3D mammography or tomo mammography.

Tomosysthesis mammography is one of the most popular features on today’s mammography market.

And there are many reasons why, but what exactly is tomo mammography?

In the next few sections we will introduce you to it.

What is Tomo on Mammogram?

Tomosynthesis is a special type of mammography that uses low dose X-rays obtained at different angles and computer reconstructions to produce three-dimensional images of the breast. Rather than the standard 2D images.  

Therefore, tomosynthesis can be also called 3D mammography or digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT). 

3D tomosynthesis mammography machines serve to assist better in early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer, when it is most treatable.

Main Differences of Conventional and Tomosynthesis Mammography

Digital mammography and 3D tomosynthesis mammography machines are almost the same, and are used to detect abnormal changes in breast tissues.

To this day, mammography is the best tool for breast cancer screening.

However, it may not detect all breast cancer. And thus, the tomosynthesis option has been developed for better outcomes.

Regular mammography obtain standard 2D images, while tomosynthesis utilize movement to gain 3D pictures, in a similar way as a CT scanner.

However, tomosynthesis models can also aquire 2D images.

Breast imaging is performed while the system compresses the breast between the clear plastic paddle and the imaging detector.

Compression may cause overlapping of breast tissue. This can hide some of the abnormal tissues, or, on the other hand, superimposed normal tissues may appear abnormal.

Pros and Cons of 3D Tomosynthesis Mammography Machines

In tomosynthesis mammography, the X-ray tube moves circularly around the compressed breast, capturing several images of each breast from different angles. This takes less than 10 seconds.

The data acquired is sent to a computer that produces a focused three-dimensional image of the breast.

The three-dimensional imaging helps minimize the tissue overlap that can hide tissue changes, or can make it hard to distinguish normal overlapping breast tissue from abnormalities.

Advantages of Tomosynthesis Mammography

What are the Advantages of Breast Tomosynthesis in Mammography?

Overall, tomosynthesis is considered to be a more advanced and detailed imaging technique than a conventional mammogram.

As tomosynthesis mammography can look at multiple breast layers in a 3D image, it overcomes some of the limitations of the conventional mammograms. For instance:

  • It reduces false positive findings.
  • 3D imaging enables detection of small lesions and other signs of breast cancer earlier than the conventional mammogram. And even earlier than any symptoms arise.
  • It has a better accuracy in determining the size, shape as well as the location of breast abnormalities.

Additionally, in the 3D tomosynthesis mammography machines, there is a higher probability of detecting multiple breast tumors. 

Disadvantages of Tomosynthesis Mammography

There are a few downsides of using tomosynthesis:

  • With more images of each breast, there is more exposure to radiation. Nevertheless, the radiation is still minimal and within safe radiation levels for FDA approved mammography images.
  • Furthermore, the arc of movement of the X-ray tube can vary, which may cause variations in the images.
  • Regarding prices, you can expect that models with tomosynthesis are going to be more expensive.
  • Moreover, the maintenance costs may be higher as well.

As you can see, tomosynthesis mammos have a few drawbacks. And if your budget is limited, you will be more than happy with a regular mammo system.

Remember that regular mammography machines are powerful and still are the standard in breast imaging.

Sum Up – Pros and Cons of 3D Tomosynthesis Mammography Machines

As we mentioned at the beginning, tomosynthesis mammograms are becoming increasingly popular in the secondary medical equipment market. 

But, what are the advantages and disadvantages of 2D vs. 3D mammography?

Get an easy overview of the main pros and cons below:

2D vs. 3D mammography systems pros and cons
What are the advantages of mammography machines with tomosynthesis?

One advantage of tomosynthesis mammography is that 3D imaging provides better results when screening dense breast and earlier detection of breast cancer.

What are the disadvantages of mammography machines with tomosynthesis?

A disadvantage of tomosynthesis mammography, it that the breast is exposed to more radiation during tomosynthesis, though it remains within safe radiation levels.

Furthermore, mammography machines with tomosynthesis are more expensive and due to their higher complexity, they may come with higher maintenance cost.

Finally, it is important to remember that tomosynthesis is a special function. The system has to be a 3D system from factory, and even though you can get it without the software for tomosynthesis, the original system has to be a 3D model in order to get the software later.

You can learn about other common add-ons for mammography machine in our Mammography Machine Accessories Guide.

For any questions or requests, feel free to contact us at

And, if you would like to learn more about mammography systems to prepare you for your next purchase, you can sign up for our new mail course. It will walk you through tomosynthesis, price ranges, model examples and much more.