Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast — or breast MRI — is a test used to detect breast cancer and other abnormalities in the breast. It captures multiple pictures of your breast and then combines the images on a computer to generate a detailed report. Breast MRI to detect cancer requires injection of a contrast agent but does not emit radiation
We may recommend a breast MRI when we require more information than a mammogram, ultrasound or clinical breast exam can provide. In certain situations, such as when a woman has a very high risk of breast cancer, breast MRI may be used along with mammograms as a screening tool for detecting breast cancer.
MRI is also used to detect breast implant integrity. An implant rupture, especially if it’s a silicone implant, can be difficult to identify. MRI is the imaging modality of choice for detecting a rupture.
A breast MRI may be recommended if:
- You've been diagnosed with breast cancer and the surgeons at Saint Johns want to determine the extent of the cancer or cancer in the opposite breast.
- You or your doctor can feel a mass or other lump in your breast, but it's not detectable on mammogram or ultrasound.
- You have a suspected leak or rupture of a breast implant.
- You're at high risk of breast cancer, defined as a lifetime risk of 20 to 25 percent or greater.
- You have a strong family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer.
- You have very dense breast tissue and your prior breast cancer wasn't detected on mammogram.
- You have a history of precancerous breast changes — such as atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ — a strong family history of breast cancer and dense breast tissue.
- You have breast cancer cells in your lymph node but your mammogram and ultrasound cannot find the cancer.
Breast MRI should be in addition to a mammogram or another breast-imaging test, and not as a replacement for a mammogram. Although it's a very sensitive test, breast MRI can still miss some breast cancers that a mammogram will detect.