Breast MRI

Breast MRI is available through Radiology and Imaging Specialists.

More than 275,000 women in the United States will receive the diagnosis of breast cancer this year, and over 40,000 women will die of the disease. Breast cancer mortality is second only to that of lung cancer and for women ages 40-55 it is the leading cause of death. Randomized trials have shown that the use of screening mammography in the general population reduces mortality associated with breast cancer by at least 24 percent. Yet many challenges remain to improve detection and guide appropriate therapy. Mammography may miss 15-20% of cancers, particularly in patients with dense fibroglandular tissue which may obscure an underlying tumor. Recent research has demonstrated that MRI can detect some small breast lesions sometimes missed by mammography.

Today, breast MRI has emerged as an extremely helpful imaging tool in evaluating mammogram abnormalities and identifying early breast cancer, especially in women at high risk. Similar to a regular MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) in which a magnetic field is used to produce accurate and detailed images from areas inside the body, a breast MRI produces hundreds of images of the breast from side-to-side, top-to-bottom, and front-to-back. MRI of the breast is not a replacement for mammography or ultrasound imaging, but rather is a supplemental tool for detecting and staging breast cancer as well as other breast abnormalities.

Who qualifies for a breast MRI?

MRI can help detect breast cancer in women with breast implants, inverted nipples, and younger women with dense breast tissue—all of which are difficult to image using traditional mammography. Because MR imaging does not involve radiation, the procedure can be used to screen women younger than the age of 40. Also, by employing MRI in regular practice the number of screenings per year increase for women at high risk for breast cancer, ultimately, detecting breast cancer even earlier. Breast MRI is covered by insurance. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that women with cancer, women at high risk for breast cancer, and women with breast implants should have an annual MRI scan in addition to mammography.

Under what conditions should breast MRI be performed?

  • MRI is used to evaluate breast lumps found during a physical examination, ultrasound, or mammography.
  • Breast MRI is vital in determining the integrity of breast implants. It assists in evaluating the breast implants for leaks, ruptures or suspicious areas seen on a digital mammogram. MRI scanning can detect leakage from a silicone-filled breast implant, since it easily distinguishes silicone gel from surrounding normal breast and chest wall tissues.
  • MRI is excellent for looking at scar tissue. MRI is able to distinguish between scar tissue and recurrent tumors. Therefore, breast MRI can evaluate a significant change in the lumpectomy site. It can determine how much cancer has spread beyond the surgical site after a breast biopsy or lumpectomy. MRI can also determine whether cancer detected by mammography or ultrasound has spread further in the breast or into the chest wall.
  • Breast MRI is utilized to look at what stage of breast cancer is present, evaluate breast tissue changes during treatment and check the progress of chemotherapy. MRI assists by providing additional information on a diseased breast to make the best treatment decisions.
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