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Breast MRI

 

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Breast Imaging Methods
Fact Sheet

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Research Fast Facts: Early Detection
Fact Sheet

What is breast MRI?

Breast MRI uses magnetic fields to create an image of the breast. It is more invasive than mammography because a contrast agent is given through an IV before the procedure. Breast MRI is used in breast cancer diagnosis and staging. It is also used in breast cancer screening for women at higher risk.  

Learn more about breast MRI and the diagnosis of breast cancer.

Breast MRI and breast cancer screening for women at higher risk of breast cancer

There is growing evidence that mammography plus breast MRI, compared to mammography alone, can increase detection of breast cancer in [57-60]:

The American Cancer Society (ACS) and National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommend yearly screening with mammography plus breast MRI for some women with a higher risk of breast cancer, including those with [18,20]:

ACS and NCCN recommend this screening start at earlier ages than women at average risk would begin screening with mammography [18,20]. Figure 3.5 outlines these guidelines.  

ACS and/or NCCN also recommend that certain women who have a moderately increased risk of breast cancer talk to their health care providers about the risks and benefits of screening with mammography plus breast MRI. Women who should consider mammography plus breast MRI include those who have:

Susan G. Komen® encourages women at higher risk of breast cancer to talk to their providers about which screenings tests are right for them.

Breast MRI for women with a personal history of breast cancer

Some studies also suggest that for women diagnosed with cancer in one breast, mammography plus breast MRI can find breast cancer in the opposite (contralateral) breast better than mammography alone [72-73].

Breast MRI for women with dense breast tissue

Mammography plus breast MRI is also under study for screening in women with dense breast tissue [61,74]. ACS recommends women with very dense breasts talk to their health care providers about the risks and benefits of screening with mammography plus breast MRI [19].  

Learn more about breast density.

Insurance coverage of breast MRI screening

Because insurance coverage varies, you may wish to talk to your insurance provider before getting breast MRI screening.

Breast MRI and breast cancer screening for women at average risk of breast cancer

Screening with mammography plus breast MRI is not recommended for women at average risk of breast cancer. Whether screening with breast MRI can benefit these women is under study. Screening with breast MRI has some drawbacks.

  • Breast MRI is more invasive than mammography because a contrast agent is given through an IV before the procedure.
  • Like mammography, breast MRI has false positive results, which need follow-up, but turn out to be benign (not cancer).
  • Some centers cannot do an MRI of the breast or do not have radiologists specially-trained to read images of the breast.
  • Not all centers can do an MRI-guided biopsy to follow-up on an abnormal finding that can only be seen on a breast MRI (cannot be seen with other imaging like mammography).
  • Breast MRI is expensive and not always covered by insurance.

Learn more about breast MRI and the diagnosis of breast cancer.  

Updated 08/02/13

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Breast Cancer Screening
Recommendations for Women at Higher Risk
 

Ultrasound

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Emerging Areas in Early Detection

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