Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

What is breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)?

Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive imaging technique that uses magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the breast.

MRI can be used as a screening tool in high-risk patients. Current guidelines include screening MRI with mammography for certain groups of women who are considered to be of higher risk (compared to the general population):

  • Women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation
  • Women with a first-degree relative (mother, sister, and/or daughter) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation
  • Women with a 20% to 25% or greater lifetime risk of breast cancer, based on 1 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 lymphoma
  • Women with multiple fillers in the breast which makes it difficult for standard mammograms and ultrasound to detect cancers

Why do you need breast MRI?

A breast MRI can also be used as a diagnostic tool to:

  • Further work up of abnormalities detected on mammogram and/or ultrasound
  • Determine extent of cancer after diagnosis of breast cancer
  • Evaluate response of chemotherapy for some breast cancers before definitive surgery
  • Evaluate integrity of breast implants if there is suspicion of leakage

You should discuss with your doctor as he/she will recommend the best imaging option based on your condition.

What are the risks of breast MRI?

A breast MRI is a safe and painless procedure. However, there are some associated risks such as:

  • Allergic reaction to the contrast medium. Allergic reaction to MRI contrast is extremely rare. Mild allergic reactions may include nausea, headaches and dizziness. Severe, life-threatening reactions are exceedingly rare.
  • False positive result. The MRI scan might identify normal breast tissues as suspicious areas. You may be required to undergo further tests such as ultrasound or breast biopsy, and this may cause unnecessary anxiety and stress.
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