MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a specialized study within breast imaging to evaluate breast tissue.
MRI of the breast, when used together with mammography, ultrasound and physical examination, can help clarify a breast cancer diagnosis.
How Breast MRI Imaging Works
The MRI equipment uses magnetic field and radio waves to create hundreds of images of the breast. Detection of breast cancer is based on increased deposition of MRI contrast material (gadolinium) in the tumor. You will receive an intravenous injection of contrast material during one part of the examination.
What to Expect During Breast MRI Imaging
During breast MRI the patient is positioned on her stomach and moved feet first into the magnet. Therefore, her head is never completely enclosed, preventing the sensation of claustrophobia.
Breast MRI imaging can often detect breast cancers as small as 3-5mm in diameter (the size of a pea), even when mammography, ultrasound and physical exam findings are normal. Tumors, which do not take up contrast material, may not be detected. Some benign breast disorders may look like cancer and will require an ultrasound and/or biopsy for final diagnosis. A non-invasive breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) may not be detected by this exam, but may be visible on mammogram. Therefore, mammography remains an essential component of complete evaluation, while breast MRI imaging is necessary to round out an imaging study.
Breast MRI Imaging is Recommended When:
- High risk screening (lifetime risk of more than 20 percent)
- Defining the extent of newly diagnosed breast cancer
Special Note about Breast MRI Imaging
If you have any of the following:
- Inner ear implant
- Aneurysm clips in your brain
- Artificial heart valves
- Cardiac stents
- Implanted pumps
- Joint replacement
- Metal screws/rods/fragments
- Allergy to gadolinium
Please inform your technologist. It is very dangerous to enter an MRI room for breast MRI imaging without asking the MRI technician about any of the above concerns.