A Woman’s Guide
Breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a relatively new application of advanced MRI technology that greatly improves your doctor’s ability to detect, diagnose and appropriately treat breast cancer. A Breast MRI is often used to confirm or explain areas of concern detected by mammography, physical exam, or other imaging exams. The technology is highly sensitive to small abnormalities that can go unnoticed by a mammography or ultrasound. Breast MRIs can typically detect breast cancers to approximately 3-5 mm in diameter (the size of a pea), even when mammograms or physical examinations are normal.
A Breast MRI highlights tumors through the use of a contrast agent or dye, which, when injected into the bloodstream, highlights the dense blood vessel network associated with tumors. Each exam produces hundreds of images of the breast, cross-sectional in all three directions (side-to-side, top-to-bottom, front-to-back). Because an MRI exam provides breast images from multiple angles, the results can be extremely useful in diagnosing and treating breast cancer, and for following-up after breast cancer treatment. An MRI is also useful when imaging dense breast tissue, which is common in younger women, and when imaging breasts with implants.
New guidelines, from the American Cancer Society recommend MRI scans in addition to your annual mammograms starting at age 30 for high-risk women. The high-risk group includes women who are prone to breast cancer because they have certain genetic mutations, BRCA1 or BRCA2, or those whose mothers, sisters or daughters carry those mutations, even if the woman herself has not been tested. These mutations are not common — they cause less than 10 percent of all breast cancers — but they greatly increase a woman’s risk up to 85 percent.
Others at high risk include women from families in which breast cancer is common, especially in close relatives, even if no genetic mutation has been identified. You and your doctor can estimate your odds by using a risk calculator that factors in the medical history of both you and your family. A simple calculator is available from the National Cancer Institute Breast MRI does not replace standard screening and procedures such as self exams, clinical exams, mammograms, fine needle aspirations or diagnostic biopsies.
Breast MRI Frequently Asked Questions
- Why did my doctor order a Breast MRI?
An MRI of the breast is a specialized study, typically performed:
- In combination with annual mammograms for women at high risk.
- To further evaluate breast tissue if suspicion of cancer cannot be ruled out on a mammogram and/or ultrasound.
- To further evaluate a breast lump or mammography finding that might be cancerous.
- To define the extent of a known breast tumor.
- How does Breast MRI technology work?
The MRI scanner is a large, cylindrical machine that uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves (not x-rays or radiation) to “see” detailed images inside your body. The MRI system uses the magnetic field to control radio waves in a pattern around a section of your body. As these radio signals pass through your body, the atoms and molecules of your tissues resonate, releasing signals and creating an image.
- What does a Breast MRI feel like?
An MRI scan is painless; there are no known side effects following an examination. You may feel warmth in the area being imaged – this is normal. For some patients, keeping still may be slightly uncomfortable. The MRI exam is fairly noisy. You will hear the hum of the machine, clicking, and loud inconsistent, thumping sounds as the magnetic field is created and pulses of radio waves are sent from the scanner.
- How long will my scan take?
The length of the procedure typically takes be between 30 and 40 minutes. More involved MRI examinations may take longer.
- What are the advantages of Breast MRI?
MRI is a diagnostic scanning technique that produces detailed images of structures within the body. It shows a greater contrast between normal and abnormal tissues than other imaging techniques, which makes it a valuable tool for diagnosing tumors, viewing tissue damage, and examining blood flow. MRI can help with early detection for better treatment, as clearer images mean more accurate diagnosis.
- Can I have a Breast MRI if I have fillings or braces?
Yes. The metal in most fillings and in braces is not affected by the MRI magnetic field.
- Will a contrast agent (dye) be given for the Breast MRI?
Gadolinium-based contrast can provide additional valuable information for many MRI or MRA examinations and is commonly used to highlight specific body regions or areas of your vascular system. However, OAI has closely monitored new findings regarding the disease known as Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis or Nephrogenic Fibrosing Dermopathy (NSF/NFD), which may occur in rare instances in patients with moderate to end-stage kidney disease after they have had a MRI or MRA scan with a gadolinium-based contrast agent.To ensure the highest quality service and care, OAI has adopted the screening guidelines recommended by the American College of Radiology (ACR) regarding administration of contrast during an MRI or MRA exam.
When scheduling your appointment you will be asked if you have any of the following conditions:
- Kidney problems/renal disease
- Hepatic disease/liver transplant/pending liver transplant
- On prescription medication for hypertension
- On prescription medication for diabetes
- Age 60 or older
If any of the above risk factors apply, OAI will request a blood test to determine your BUN/Creatinine level and estimated GFR. If your GFR is lower than 60, the radiologist will review your medical history, evaluate the risks and benefits of contrast administration, and discuss the situation with your ordering physician if deemed necessary. OAI staff will explain the radiologist’s decision at the time of your appointment.
- Can I move during the Breast MRI scan?
Relax and try to lie as still as possible when you are inside the scanner, and when you hear the loud thumping sounds. Any movement can blur the images. For most MRI exams, you may reposition your arms or scratch an itch between image sequences, which last several minutes. However, it is important that you not move the body part being imaged until the entire exam is complete. Some MRI exams of the chest and abdomen may require that you hold your breath for 10 to 25 seconds at a time. This eliminates blurring in the image caused by breathing or other patient motion.
Breast MRI Preparation
- Preparing for Your Breast MRI
- For non-urgent exams, we recommend scheduling your MRI within 7-10 days after the first day of your menstrual period. We also recommend all hormone therapy be discontinued for three months prior to non-urgent exams. Please discuss this option with your physician prior to setting your appointment date.
- Our office staff will contact you prior to your appointment date for pre-registration and confirmation.
- It is important to provide our technologists and radiologists with all existing and data prior to your MRI. For this reason, we ask that during pre-registration you provide information on all of your prior imaging studies, mammograms, and any biopsies you may have had.
- We recommend contacting your insurance company regarding benefits and coverage prior to your appointment date. Please bring your insurance information to your appointment.
- Depending on your insurance coverage, you may be asked to pay a small percentage of your scanning fee on the day of your exam. Our billing department can provide the estimated amount prior to your appointment. Please call us at 541-608-0350 for assistance. We gladly accept MasterCard, Visa, checks or cash.
- No additional preparation is required on the day of your exam. Eat normally and take any medication as usual.
- If you require a mild oral sedative to be comfortable in the MRI scanner, please make arrangements with your physician and plan to have someone drive you to and from your appointment.
- What To Expect During Your Breast Exam:
- You’ll need to remove any metal you are wearing (i.e. jewelry, watch, hearing aids). We will provide comfortable clothing for your use during the exam. We also offer heated robes for your comfort.
- Our expert staff will make sure you are as comfortable as possible during every phase of the exam. Should you have any concerns, you will be able to communicate with the technologists throughout the exam.
- An IV tube will be placed in your arm to deliver the contrast agent. Lying on your stomach, your breasts will rest in a recessed chamber with no compression (pressure).
- It is important to remain still for approximately 25 minutes, as motion will blur the image.
- Your healthcare provider may also request a chest MRI exam, which takes an additional 20 minutes, lying on your back.
- During the exam you will hear loud thumping noises, but will feel no physical sensations. The sound is normal for all MRI scanners. Earplugs and music headphones are available if you choose to use them. We offer a wide selection of music, and you are also welcome to bring your own audio CD.
- The MRI scanner has adequate space for most people. If you have difficulty with confined areas, please call us in advance at 541-608-0350.
- After our radiologists interpret your MRI results, OAI will forward a report to your doctor who will make a diagnosis and, if necessary, develop a treatment plan.
Sentinelle MRI Breast Coil
- About the Sentinelle MRI Breast Coil
Our Sentinelle MRI Breast Coil leverages an innovative patient support design with unique Variable Coil Geometry™, which pairs up with our Espree Open Bore MRI to create dedicated system for better breast MR imaging. With features not available in traditional breast MRI coils, this next-generation system optimizes imaging and access, as well as patient care and comfort.
- High Quality Imaging
The unique Variable Coil Geometry allows imaging coils to be customized for each breast of every patient, which improves signal-to-noise ratio over fixed coils. This results in the ability to resolve detail in morphology, which can lead to better breast cancer management and treatment options.
- Patient Care and Comfort
Our patient-centric support features state-of-the-art ergonomics to comfortably accommodate patients of all sizes, with arms at side and arms over the head positioning. In combination with Espree Open Bore MRI system, this unique coil design maximizes patient space, which can increase access for larger or claustrophobic patients, therefore reducing anxiety and improving your experience. Your comfort can greatly reduce movement during the MRI, resulting in better imaging.
- Full Access
The open design of the Sentinelle Vanguard patient support allows maximum access to the breast for ease of positioning. Coils can be adjusted for different sized breasts and different targeted areas of the breast. The coils can easily be moved medially and laterally, as well as anteriorly and posteriorly, providing the greatest flexibility in coil and grid placement. This permits optimal access for targeting in all quadrants of the breast. The Sentinelle Vanguard is universally compatible with leading biopsy devices and localization needles.
Breast MRI Images
Below are some examples of Breast MRI images: