Breast MRI is a non-invasive procedure that radiologists can use to determine what the inside of the breast looks like. No radioactivity is involved. The test may be used to distinguish between benign (not cancer) and malignant lesions.
Breast MRI is an excellent problem solving technology and is often used to investigate breast concerns first detected with mammography, physical exam, or other imaging exams.
The most recent guidelines from the American Cancer Society include screening MRI with mammography for certain high-risk women. This option should be considered for the following:
- Women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation (BRCA1 is a gene, which, when altered, indicates an inherited susceptibility to cancer. BRCA2 is a gene, which, when altered, indicates an inherited susceptibility to breast and/or ovarian cancer).
- Women with a first-degree relative (mother, sister, and/or daughter) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, if they have not yet been tested for the mutation.
- Women with a 20 to 25 percent or greater lifetime risk of breast cancer, based on one of several accepted risk assessment tools that look at family history and other factors.
- Women who have had radiation treatment to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30, such as for treatment of Hodgkin disease.
- Women with the genetic disorders Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome; or those who have a first degree relative with the syndrome.
Some common uses for breast MRI include:
- Further evaluation of abnormalities detected by mammography.
- Finding early breast cancers not detected by other tests, especially in women at high risk and women with dense breast tissue.
- Examination for cancer in women who have implants or scar tissue that might produce an inaccurate result from a mammogram.This test can also be helpful for women with lumpectomy scars to check for any changes.
- Detecting small abnormalities not seen with mammography or ultrasound (for example, MRI has been useful for women who have breast cancer cells present in an underarm lymph node, but do not have a lump that can be felt or can be viewed on diagnostic studies).
- Assess for leakage from a silicone gel implant.
- Evaluate the size and precise location of breast cancer lesions, including the possibility that more than one area of the breast may be involved (this is helpful for cancers that spread and involve more than one area).
- Determining whether lumpectomy or mastectomy would be more effective.
- Detection of the spread of breast cancer into the chest wall, which may change treatment options.
- Detection of breast cancer recurrence or residual tumor after lumpectomy.
- Evaluation of a newly inverted nipple change.
The Breast MRI should be scheduled:
- In the middle of your menstrual cycle (between the 7th and 14th day)
- Hormone therapy must be discontinued 3 weeks prior to the exam
- 6-8 weeks after lumpectomy