MRI of the breast is not a replacement for mammography or ultrasound imaging but rather a supplemental tool for detecting and staging breast cancer and other breast abnormalities. MR imaging of the breast is performed to:
- Assess multiple tumor locations, especially prior to breast conservation surgery.
- Identify early breast cancer not detected through other means, especially in women with dense breast tissue and those at high risk for the disease.
- Evaluate abnormalities detected by mammography or ultrasound.
- Distinguish between scar tissue and recurrent tumors.
- Determine whether cancer detected by mammography, ultrasound, or after surgical biopsy has spread further in the breast or into the chest wall.
- Assess the effect of chemotherapy.
- Provide additional information on a diseased breast to make treatment decisions.
- Determine the integrity of breast implants.
WHO MIGHT BENEFIT FROM BREAST MRI?
- Women with at least two first degree relatives, such as mother and sister with invasive breast cancer, when one of them was found before age 40.
- Women with certain very rare genetic or medical conditions that cause a high risk of cancer.
- Certain women with breast cancer, MRI can help plan surgery when it is not clear that the breast can be saved and full removal (mastectomy) might be needed instead.
- Women with silicone gel implants to detect possible leaking of the implant
After registering, you will be escorted to the MRI Suite, where you will be informed about the scan and have a chance to ask questions. It is important that you inform the technologist of any medications you are taking, as well as any allergies you have. In addition, inform the technologist of any history of heart disease, asthma, kidney disease, diabetes, thyroid problems or pregnancy.
You will need to remove all metal objects before entering the MRI Suite, including jewelry, glasses, clothes with zippers, keys, etc. The magnet can erase credit cards. If you are not wearing metal-free clothing, a gown will be provided for your use.
Although the machine is large and may look intimidating, MRI procedures are pain free. Before the scan, a technologist will place you on the table, lying on your stomach, with your breasts hanging into cushioned openings that are surrounded by a breast coil, which is a signal receiver for the MRI. You will receive an IV injection of a contrast agent called gadolinium. You will then be positioned inside of the magnet, which is like a tunnel, open at both ends.
The scanner makes a loud knocking noise when it is acquiring images or “sequences.” Earplugs or a headset will be provided to protect your ears from the noise. Each sequence can take anywhere from 30 seconds to seven minutes. During the noise, you will need to lie still because moving will cause blurry pictures. Unless otherwise instructed, breathe normally.
Once the exam is done, the images will be quickly reviewed to make sure all the information needed has been imaged. The exam itself will take between 30 minutes to an hour, and your appointment should be completed within an hour and a half.