Breast MRI is a highly sensitive noninvasive test which examines the inside of the breast through hundreds of images. There is no compression or flattening of the breast during this exam and there is no radiation exposure.
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.
Medical studies are currently being conducted to determine whether MRI and other imaging methods can contribute to the early detection and prevention of deaths from breast cancer.
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.
The patient lies face down on a special breast MRI table which allows her breasts to hang through an opening which will allow the MRI to provide very detailed images of each breast. A simple IV line is established beforehand to allow injection of a type of contrast which will help the radiologist determine whether there is an area in the breast which is suspicious for cancer. The IV is needed to give a special type of MRI contrast called gadolinium. Breast cancers typically have a rich blood supply, so tumors “light up” on MRI. It is this contrast that makes MRI more sensitive in cancer detection than mammography. Allergies to this type of dye (which is different than “x-ray dye”) are extremely rare. The patient must be able to lie still, and the exam takes approximately 30 minutes.
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