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Breast MRI

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Breast MRI uses powerful magnetic field and radio waves to create imaging of the breast tissue. A magnetic field is created around you, the radio waves being directed towards you. Breast MRI is performed to get a detailed imaging of the organ, soft tissues, bone and complete internal structure. The American Cancer Society (ACS) has recommended that women with high risk of developing breast cancer should get breast MRI scans in addition to the yearly mammogram.


Breast cancer MRI

It is used typically for high risk breast cancer patients. Breast MRI is used along with mammography or breast ultrasound to detect and stage breast cancer and other breast abnormalities


Breast MRI is often recommended for women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, high risk of breast cancer and those with immediate family member having the genetic mutation. Breast MRI is suggested for women with breast implants, positive auxiliary nodes and unknown primary carcinomas.


Breast MRI can easily provide direct views of the breast in nearly any orientation. In a mammogram, this has to be done by manually repositioning the breast. The images are available in any plane and orientation. Breast MRI can help determine the course of treatment for breast cancer, be it lumpectomy or mastectomy. If the cancer has spread to the chest wall, it is shown up in the breast MRI. This necessitates chemotherapy before surgery.


Breast MRI images

Breast MRI involves highly sensitive imaging of the breast and helps detect invasive breast cancer. It is found to be especially sensitive in detecting intra-ductal breast cancer. Breast MRI can help in evaluating abnormalities that were noticed in a mammogram or breast ultrasound. The breast MRI can help assess the effects of chemotherapy on tumors. In fact, as a screening tool, breast MRI helps distinguish between scar tissue and tumors that are recurrent.


Breast MRI can help detect breast abnormalities that might be hidden by bone and therefore overlooked by other imaging techniques. Small breast lesions are best identified by breast MRI. Breast MRI also helps guide biopsy to remove targeted samples. Breast MRI is best suited to stage proven malignancy. It is also used to examine the chest wall invasion for deep lesions.
In case of breast implants or breast augmentation, the MRI of the breast allows visualization of leak or rupture. Mammogram cannot sufficiently penetrate saline or silicone implants.


Breast MRI is expensive and can very often give false positive results. This happens in case of fibrocystic breast disease. Often with breast MRI, edema fluid is mistaken for cancerous tissue. Breast MRI does not pick up micro calcifications, a common cause for cancer. These are better viewed on a mammography. Typically an MRI of the breast costs about $1000. It is far more expensive than a mammogram costing $100.


Breast MRI procedure

The best time to schedule a breast MRI is at the beginning of the menstrual cycle. Before going in for breast MRI, you need to remove any metal on your body. Unlike in a mammogram, the breasts are not compressed in a Breast MRI. Instead they are placed within a cushioned opening in the table. A breast MRI procedure lasts about an hour. You need to lie on your stomach on the padded scanning table.


Breast MRI can be performed on a person who has undergone heart surgery. But you need to keep the radiologist informed if you have a medical device fitted such as pacemaker, defibrillator, implanted drug port or artificial joint. A contrast dye is injected to make imaging easier. Always inform the radiologist if you have any known allergies or kidney problems.


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Top of the Page: Breast MRI