Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses magnetic fields to create an image of the breast.
Breast MRI is used in breast cancer screening for women at higher than average risk. It’s also used is in breast cancer diagnosis and staging.
Screening with mammography plus breast MRI is not recommended for women at average risk of breast cancer.
Learn more about breast MRI and the diagnosis of breast cancer.
Compared to mammography, screening with breast MRI has some drawbacks [67-68].
Compared to mammography alone, mammography plus breast MRI can increase detection of breast cancer in [54-57]:
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends yearly screening with mammography plus breast MRI for some women at higher than average risk of breast cancer, including women with :
Both the NCCN and the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommend women at higher risk of breast cancer begin screening at an earlier age than women at average risk [8,13]. Figure 3.5 and Figure 3.6 outline their guidelines.
Talk with your health care provider about breast cancer screening. Together, you can make a screening plan that's right for you.
For premenopausal women, the best timing for breast MRI is day 7-15 of the menstrual cycle .
For postmenopausal women, breast MRI can be done at any time.
Insurance coverage of breast MRI varies.
It's a good idea to talk with your insurance provider before getting breast MRI screening to see if it's covered.
Mammography plus breast MRI is under study for screening for women with a personal history of breast cancer.
Some studies suggest for women diagnosed with cancer in 1 breast, mammography plus breast MRI can find breast cancer in the opposite (contralateral) breast better than mammography alone [69-71].
One study found mammography plus breast MRI may also help find new cancers in the treated breast (in women who had lumpectomy) .
However, it’s not clear whether or not MRI can benefit women with a personal history of breast cancer. So, at this time, it’s not routinely recommended for these women.
Mammography plus breast MRI is under study for screening in women with dense breast tissue [73-75].
Breast MRI plus mammography may find a few more breast cancers than mammography alone . However, adding breast MRI increases false positive results and it's unclear whether it improves breast cancer outcomes .
Both the NCCN and the ACS state there's not enough evidence to make a recommendation for or against MRI screening for women who have dense breasts [8,13].
Learn more about breast density on a mammogram.
Facts for Life: Breast Cancer Screening & Follow-up Tests
Research Fast Facts: Early Detection