Breast MRI

What is breast MRI?

Breast MRI is a supplemental tool used in conjunction with mammography and ultrasound to detect and stage breast cancer and other breast abnormalities.

Will breast MRI take the place of a screening mammogram?

No. Breast MRI does not take the place of a screening mammogram. Mammography is very sensitive in detection of micro calcifications; an early sign of cancer. (These could be missed by MRI).

Breast MRI is best used to provide additional information, including: diagnosis of breast implant ruptures, staging of breast cancer and treatment planning, post-surgery and post-radiation follow-up, dense breast tissue evaluation, and monitoring high risk patients, such as those with a family history of breast cancer.

What are the benefits of breast MRI?

MRI has been shown to detect small breast lesions that could be missed by mammography, especially in dense breast. In addition, MRI provides clear and detailed images of the soft tissue, making breast MRI a valuable tool in evaluation of the extent of disease.

What to Expect

For an MRI of the breast, you will lie face down on a platform specially designed for the procedure. The platform has openings to accommodate your breasts and allow them to be imaged without compression. The electronics needed to capture the MRI image are actually built into the platform. It is important to remain very still throughout the exam. This is best accomplished by making sure you are comfortable and can relax rather than trying to actively hold still tensing your muscles. Be sure to let the technologist know if something is uncomfortable, since discomfort increases the chance that you will feel the need to move during the exam.

If MRI of the breast is being performed for the sole purpose of determining if you have a ruptured breast implant, you will not be given contrast material. If the exam is being performed for any other reason, you will need to have a contrast material injected intravenously. MRI of the breast without contrast material is inadequate for identifying breast cancers. If a contrast material will be used in the MRI exam, a nurse or technologist will insert an intravenous (IV) catheter, also known as an IV line, into a vein in your hand or arm. A saline solution may be used. The solution will drip through the IV to prevent blockage of the IV catheter until the contrast material is injected. You will be moved into the magnet of the MRI unit and the radiologist and technologist will leave the room while the MRI examination is performed. If a contrast material is used during the examination, it will be injected into the intravenous line (IV) after an initial series of scans. Additional series of images will be taken during or following the injection.

When the examination is completed, you may be asked to wait until the technologist or radiologist checks the images in case additional images are needed. Your intravenous line will be removed. MRI exams generally include multiple runs (sequences), some of which may last several minutes. The imaging session lasts between 30 minutes and one hour and the total examination is usually completed within an hour and a half.

Patient preparation

If you need sedation for claustrophobia, you must have someone else drive you to and from your exam.

• Do not wear jewelry

• Do not wear anything with metal (zippers, snaps, hooks.) Athletic wear with elastic waistband is a good choice.