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What is Breast MRI?

MRI is a highly sensitive breast imaging modality which uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the body. Breast MRI is proving to be an important way to evaluate the presence or extent of breast disease. Without the use of radiation or the need for breast compression, breast MRI provides critical clinical information to your doctor to aid in your treatment plan.

Important: If you have any metal inside of your body, please tell us immediately. If you have a pacemaker, you CANNOT have an MRI. Certain pumps and clips are also contraindications for MRI. When you are scheduling your appointment, let us know if you have any of these so we can check safety issues before you arrive for your exam.

Why Breast MRI?

Based on your clinical exam, and after review of your mammography, your doctor may order a Breast MRI. Breast MRI has been shown to detect small lesions that may be missed by mammography and or ultrasound. In addition, Breast MRI can provide important clinical information that will be used to assist in the diagnosis when abnormalities are found in a mammogram or ultrasound. Breast MRI can also image dense breasts and patients with saline/silicone breast implants.

MR imaging of the breast is performed to:

  • evaluate abnormalities detected by mammography.
  • identify early breast cancer not detected through other means, especially in women with dense breast tissue and those at high risk for the disease.
  • screen for cancer in women who have implants or scar tissue that might jeopardize an accurate result from a mammogram.
  • determine the integrity of breast implants.
  • distinguish between scar tissue and recurrent tumors.
  • assess multiple tumor locations.
  • look for multiple tumors prior to breast conservation surgery.
  • determine whether cancer detected by mammography or ultrasound has spread further in the breast or into the chest wall.
  • determine how much cancer has spread beyond the surgical site after a breast biopsy or lumpectomy.
  • assess the effect of chemotherapy.
  • provide additional information on a diseased breast to make treatment decisions.

Without contrast material, an MRI of the breast can show:

  • breast tissue density.
  • cysts.
  • enlarged ducts.
  • hematomas.
  • leaking or ruptured breast implants.

By comparing breast images taken before and after contrast material injection, an MRI exam can determine:

  • if there are breast abnormalities.
  • whether an abnormality looks benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
  • the size and location of any abnormality that looks malignant.
  • the presence of enlarged lymph nodes.

How do I prepare for the exam?

Because you will be face down on your stomach, we recommend either light or no make up. Please do not use any heavy deodorant and do not wear jewelry. We will provide you with a gown and shorts. If you prefer, you may wear comfortable pants or sweats with no metal at all. No hair pins, clips or wig metal. Please feel free to bring a metal-free hair tie if you need to keep your hair back. It is very important to bring your most recent mammogram/or breast ultrasound films and reports with you.

Will I still need to have a Mammogram?

Breast MRI is not meant to replace your mammogram. If your doctor feels that a breast MRI is indicated after evaluation of the results of your mammogram, breast MRI is an additional tool to specifically evaluate breast abnormalities, and will provide detailed information to your doctor regarding your breast health.

Will I need to have an IV?

In order to determine any breast abnormalities, it is necessary to show the way contrast is taken up and washed-out of the breast tissue. A series of “pictures” or images will be taken without contrast and then an additional series of images will be taken with contrast.

The Exam

Plan on spending approximately one to one and one half hours with us. Breast MRI exams are approximately 30 minutes table time, 40 minutes if you have breast implants. The additional time is needed for preparation. You will lie prone (on your stomach) for the examination with a head support which is provided. There is no breast compression for this exam. Your feet will go into the scanner first, with the head near the opening of the scanner. All breast exams performed at Grossman Imaging Centers are bilateral (both breasts at the same time) and will require contrast for diagnostic and comparison purposes. We have female technologists who will be performing this exam.

During the Exam

When you come into the exam room, the technologist will start an IV and help you onto the table where you will be face down for your exam. The “coil” is made specifically for breast imaging so that your breasts will be scanned in a comfortable position as natural as possible. Both breasts will hang freely into a cushioned recess with no compression. The entire exam is comprised of a series of scans that last 2-5 minutes each. There is a two-way intercom open at all times. After approximately 20 minutes of scanning, the contrast will be automatically administered using the IV that was started when you first arrived. The remaining series of scans, after the contrast injection, take approximately ten minutes. It is very important that you move and talk as little as possible during the exam. Body motion will adversely affect the results.

After the Exam

When your exam is finished, an average of 2,000 plus images have been taken. These images will be analyzed by utilizing our unique CADstream (computer assisted diagnosis) system which will help to identify any abnormalities. Our specially trained Radiologist will review the examination and the results will be sent to your referring doctor.

What does CADstream do for me?

Once your exam is complete and you leave Grossman Imaging Centers, the analysis of your study begins. All of the images from the scanner are sent to our CADstream computer which generates a unique color coding of contrast enhanced tissue densities; provides a graph that explains how that tissue accepts and releases the contrast as well as providing a 3D measurement of any enhanced findings. With this comprehensive information the Radiologist is able to provide an extremely detailed analysis of your breast MRI which will be provided to your physician.