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A Breast MRI may be ordered by your physician to get a more detailed look, either for prevention or diagnosis.
Sometimes a breast MRI is performed as a preventative imaging scan in high-risk women with a strong family history of breast cancer. These women may undergo regular MRI screening to look for subtle differences that may represent cancer. Mammograms are still considered the first line in breast imaging, and the MRI is a supplemental imaging scan.
Breast MRI is also used as a diagnostic imaging radiology exam. It can evaluate the extent of disease in patients with a recent diagnosis of breast cancer. Contrast MRI imaging looks for additional breast cancers within either breast. This examination provides valuable information for the surgeon, giving her a more detailed map prior to any surgery.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI for short) is an imaging technology that uses magnets and radio waves to produce detailed 3-D Imaging of the Breast(s). These signals are then converted to images for the radiologists to interpret. MRI is commonly performed to distinguish normal tissues from injured or pathologic tissues. MRI is also used as a diagnostic scan to find the reason for a complaint or symptom.
Before the MRI Imaging is performed, The Women's Imaging Center will determine if this exam is the best one for you. We may inject a contrast dye (called Gadolinium) into a vein in your arm. The contrast is taken up differently in different types of tissues to different degrees. It is important to tell the scheduler AND the MRI technologist if you have ever had an allergic reaction to a contrast agent previously. The dye used in MRI is different from that used in a CT exam. For most people, this is not an issue.
The MRI imaging may take 25 to 40 minutes depending on whether contrast dye needs to be administered or whether special imaging sequences are needed. The complexity of organ imaging may affect the time needed to perform the imaging scan.
You will be asked to complete the medical history of any medical conditions. Please tell the scheduler and the technologist if you have any metal in your body such as metal fragments from trauma or surgery that may be an issue for the “magnetic pull” of the MRI. Tell us if you have had any surgery anywhere on your body including your limbs, abdomen, brain, or heart. If you have any planted devices such as pacemakers, defibrillators, aneurysm clips, auditory hearing implants, neurotransmitters, internal wires or electrodes, implanted pumps or ports, surgical mesh, any coils, stents, or filters please tell your technologist before scheduling because an MRI may not be possible. Many cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators are not compatible with MRI. Some of the newer devices are so it is important to know from your surgeon and the manufacturer what kind you have. Some external body wear or design such as body or face/ makeup tattooing, permanent piercings may limit you from having the MRI. Current or prior metal workers may have small fragments in their eyes as an occupational hazard. You may be asked to have an x-ray prior to performing the MRI. Jewelry and piercings need to be taken out by you for your safety in the magnet. Please see our MRI SAFETY FORM for more information.
You will be lying on your back on a comfortable table that moves into and out of the MRI machine. The magnet makes a loud clunky sound so the technologists will fit you with comfortable headphones and you may choose to listen to music through the headphone that makes the magnet sound indistinct. Many patients actually find the exam soothing because of the music and may fall asleep. It is important not to move quickly or jerk during the exam because this may cause irregularities in the images from signals of the magnets moving.
MRI images are read (interpreted) by the fellowship-trained radiologists expert in imaging interpretation of the body or breast. The Women's Imaging Radiologists are specialized in the performance of any or all imaging modalities that are used in Woman's Radiology including breast, gynecologic, abdominal, thyroid, pelvic, and bone. This allows you to closely work with one radiologist or a small group of radiologists who are directly involved in multiple aspects of your care from screening to diagnosis to treatment when needed.
Hundreds of MRI images in various sequences will be produced for each MRI study that needs to be interpreted. Therefore, the results will not be immediately available. An MRI specialist or the patient navigator will call you regarding your results once the interpretation is complete. If you have any prior examinations elsewhere, please let us know the location so that we can obtain these for faster comparison. The images from many centers can be transferred to The Women’s Imaging Center quickly. You might have to sign a release form so that we may request this transfer. We will also send a copy of your report to your ordering clinician and they will discuss any further action recommended based on your imaging results. Preventative MRI (screening MRI) because of family history or genetic risk factors usually requires authorization from the insurance company. MRI for immediate treatment care in women with a new cancer diagnosis may not require insurance authorization.