A breast MRI (magnetic-resonance imaging) is a noninvasive diagnostic imaging test that produces multiple cross-sectional images of the breast to help screen for breast cancer.
This advanced procedure is capable of detecting certain abnormalities that may not be found by other imaging techniques. It is the only procedure to produce images of both hard and soft tissue. An MRI is often performed after a mammogram and may be helpful in staging breast cancer.
The Purpose Of A Breast MRI
There are many reasons to do a breast MRI. Some of the most common reasons include the following:
- An unclear mammogram or sonogram
- A very dense mammogram
- A strong family history of breast cancer
- An abnormal clinical breast exam that does not match other imaging studies
The Benefits Of A Breast MRI
A breast MRI is effective in detecting a wide range of breast-tissue abnormalities, including many that may be missed by a mammogram. A breast MRI might also be helpful in the following:
- Breast cancer diagnosis and staging
- Confirming abnormalities detected by other imaging exams
- Monitoring chemotherapy treatment
- Evaluating the status of breast implants
An MRI is an effective diagnostic tool that does not involve any exposure to radiation. Unlike X-rays, radioisotopes, CT scans and other methods that use radiation, MRIs use radiofrequency waves, which detect differences in water concentration and distribution in body tissues.
The procedure is safe for nearly all patients and is constantly being improved to make it more comfortable for patients with claustrophobia.
The Breast MRI Procedure
During a breast MRI, the patient lies facedown on a movable padded table; the breasts fit into hollow depressions that are connected to the MRI scanner through magnetic signals. A contrast dye may be injected into the body to help easily identify any abnormalities. The table then slides into the opening of the machine, and a magnetic field is created around the patient. A breast MRI takes about one hour to perform.