TYLER, Texas (KETK) - New technology is helping doctors diagnose breast cancer earlier. 

Leslie Roberts is a two-time breast cancer survivor.

"It was just devastating," Roberts says. "You are trying to do all the right things, but sometimes genetics plays a hand you can't beat." 

In 2002, she underwent a 2D mammogram and was given the all clear.

"I had a mammography in April before my first breast cancer presented itself as a lump in August," Roberts says. "They went back and said, 'well maybe we could have seen it, maybe not.' This is the case where I think a 3D mammography would've made a huge difference."

Dr. Don Wells performs 3D mammograms at UT Health Northeast in Tyler. The technology, also known as tomosynthesis, can detect cancer in the beginning stages.

"We find many cancers with tomosynthesis that we simply cannot see with regular mammography," Don Wells, MD says. "We are finding cancers when they are smaller and can be cured."

The machine is a screening tool that takes a series of images to recreate a 3D picture of the breast.

"We actually take slices of images through the breast tissue so that individual images show the breast tissue that is in that section and not overlying tissue," Dr. Wells says.

The screening releases the same amount of radiation as a traditional mammogram, and on average, takes less than ten minutes to perform. 

Dana Clark has been getting yearly mammograms for more than 20 years. 

"It's easy to get busy in daily life taking care of our kids, parents and responsibilities, but as working women we tend to put it off," Clark, a Tyler resident says. "I just try to keep mine every year."

 Clark has dense breast tissue and prefers 3D mammograms.

"Actually, this is less discomforting for me. It feels better. It's not as uncomfortable."

She is encouraging other women to get screened.

"Mammography is easy and doesn't hurt," Clark says. "It takes ten minutes, and then, you are in and out. You doctor can then make a decision on your next course of therapy." 

A new Texas law, which goes into effect January 1st, 2018, could help save lives. The rule requires commercial insurance providers to cover the costs of 3D mammograms.

"It's very welcomed news," Dr. Wells says. "We've been providing this service since 2014, but with insurance coverage now, that takes a load off of patients and institutions and allows the providing of a very important service."

Roberts' lymph nodes had to be removed. For 15 years now, she has been dealing with a swollen arm.

"I'm here for lymphedema treatment to manage that," Roberts says. "I think if there had been 3D mammography back then, they probably would have detected it before it got to a lymph node. That would have saved me a lifetime of problems with that."

She maintains a positive attitude and wants others to keep up the fight and look toward the future. 

"The future is bright," Roberts says. "You can go through this. I've done it twice. It sounds ominous at first, but you just take it one day at a time. You can come through it and live a good fulfilling life."

UT Health Northeast offers 3D mammograms in Tyler. 

Longview Regional Medical Center and Christus Good Shepherd Health System offer them in Longview.

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