Breast Tomosynthesis

Pioneered at Massachusetts General Hospital, breast tomosynthesis is an advanced type of mammogram that can offer better cancer detection, fewer call backs and greater peace of mind. It is our standard protocol for all screening mammograms.

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Read about the clinical data on breast tomosynthesis from large-population studies.

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What is Breast Tomosynthesis?

Breast tomosynthesis is a breakthrough in mammography that provides a clearer, more accurate view compared to digital mammography alone.

Research on breast tomosynthesis in large populations consistently shows:

  • improved breast cancer detection rates, especially invasive cancers
  • a decrease in call backs, which may lessen anxiety for patients

A New Dimension in Breast Cancer Detection

Conventional digital mammography produces one image of overlapping tissue, making it difficult to detect cancers. Performed with digital mammography using the same scanner, breast tomosynthesis takes multiple images of the entire breast. It allows our specialized breast radiologists to see through layers of tissue and examine areas of concern from all angles. Benefits can include:

  • Earlier detection of small breast cancers that may be hidden during digital mammography
  • Greater accuracy in pinpointing size, shape and location of abnormalities
  • Fewer unnecessary biopsies or additional tests
  • Greater likelihood of detecting multiple breast tumors, which occur in 15% of breast cancer patients
  • Clearer images of dense breast tissue

At Mass General Imaging, breast tomosynthesis plus digital mammography is standard protocol for all screening mammograms.

Breast Cancer Screening by Specialists

The Breast Imaging Division at Mass General includes a team of specialized breast radiologists from the Department of Radiology who are experts in detecting breast lesions through the use of mammography, ultrasound and MRI. Part of the Avon Foundation Comprehensive Breast Evaluation Center on the Mass General main campus, it is one of the nation's largest breast-imaging teams.

Milestones in Innovation

  • 1992: Mass General Breast Imaging team begins pioneering research into breast tomosynthesis
  • February 11, 2011: Breast tomosynthesis is approved by FDA
  • March 7, 2011: Mass General Breast Imaging team performs the first clinical breast tomosynthesis exam in the United States
  • 2014: Mass General Breast Imaging Division adopts breast tomosynthesis plus digital mammography as standard protocol for all mammograms

Emphasis on Safety

Ensuring patient safety is our top priority. We pay special attention to minimizing radiation exposure while producing the highest quality image to answer the clinical question. As part of this commitment, we invest in the latest equipment to ensure that our fleet of scanners consistently delivers the lowest dose of radiation possible during an exam.

All Mass General facilities for mammography are licensed and accredited by the American College of Radiology, the FDA and the Radiation Control Program of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Public Health.



Mammograms at Mass General

Learn more about mammograms at Mass General and how to schedule an appointment at one of our locations.


Request a mammogram

Fill out an online form to schedule an appointment for a screening mammogram at Mass General.


Breast tomosynthesis: A video

Learn how breast tomosynthesis works in this video featuring Mass General staff.