Breast MRI

RIA currently offers Breast MRI in Virginia at our Sterling, VA location, and at all three of our Maryland locations. MRI is a sophisticated technology that uses a computer, magnetic field and radio waves instead of x-rays to produce images of the soft tissues in the body. This non-invasive procedure helps RIA’s board-certified mammography trained physicians to better evaluate the breast in special circumstances. When used in conjunction with screening and diagnostic mammography it can provide valuable information for the detection and characterization of breast disease.

If MRI is used, it should be in addition to, not instead of a screening mammogram. While an MRI is more likely to detect cancer than a mammogram, it may not visualize some cancers that a mammogram would detect.

Who needs a Breast MRI?

Breast MRI has been proven to be more sensitive than any other modality in detecting invasive breast cancer. MRI is superior at demonstrating the size and extent of a breast tumor prior to surgery. In addition, it is beneficial for screening patients at particularly high risk for breast cancer due to genetic predisposition or strong family history, diagnosing breast implant rupture, staging breast cancer and planning treatment. MRI also plays an important role in post-surgical and post-radiation follow-up.

Breast MRI for women with an increased risk of breast cancer

In March 2007, the American Cancer Society (ACS) revised the breast cancer early detection guidelines, recommending annual breast MRI screening for women in the following groups that:

  • have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
  • have a first-degree relative (mother, father, brother, sister, or child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, and have not had genetic testing themselves
  • have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of about 20% to 25% or greater, according to risk assessment tools that are based mainly on a family history that includes both her mother's and father's side
  • had radiation therapy to the chest when they were between the ages of 10 and 30 years
  • have a genetic disease such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome, or have one of these syndromes in first-degree relatives

Women at moderately increased risk (15% to 20% lifetime risk) should talk with their physicians about the benefits and limitations of adding MRI screening to their yearly mammogram. These patient groups include those that:

  • have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of 15% to 20%, according to risk assessment tools that are based mainly on family history (see below)
  • have a personal history of breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH), or atypical lobular hyperplasia (ALH)
  • have extremely dense breasts or unevenly dense breasts when viewed by mammograms

Yearly MRI screening is not recommended for women whose lifetime risk of breast cancer is less than 15%.

Several risk assessment tools, such as BRCAPRO and the Claus model are available to help health professionals estimate a woman's risk. The results should be discussed between a woman and her physicians when they are used to recommend Breast MRI screening.

What should I expect?

The entire appointment will take 45 minutes to an hour. This exam should be scheduled 7-10 days after the start of your menstrual cycle. Correct timing is important to minimize false positive findings that can occur due to hormonal influence on the breast tissue. If you suffer from minor claustrophobia or anxiety, you may want to ask your physician for a mild sedative. Do not take the sedative until you have signed your paperwork.

A Breast MRI requires light compression to stablize the breast, but you should not experience discomfort. When you arrive you will be asked to complete paperwork regarding your history and symptoms. We will escort you into a private dressing room where you can change into a gown and remove all jewelry, since these items contain metal, which disturbs MRI signals. An MRI technologist will position you for the scan. During the exam, you will lie on your stomach with your arms up over your head and you will enter the machine—head first. It’s best to avoid eating a large meal prior to the exam.

Most patients receive an injection of contrast material called gadolinium during the exam through a vein in the arm. The injection of contrast material is necessary if the MRI is being performed for the diagnosis of breast cancer. It is sometimes not necessary if the sole intent of the study is to evaluate silicone breast implants. Adverse reactions to gadolinium are rare. You will be asked to lie very still, relax and breathe normally. The MRI scan will only take 15-20 minutes. There are typically no side effects during or after MRI, so you can resume normal activities as soon as your exam is over.

It is very important that any prior breast films (mammograms, ultrasound or MRI) be made available to the radiologist for comparison during the interpretation of your MRI scan. If you have had these at a facility other than Radiology Imaging Associates, please bring them with you on the day of your appointment. After the MRI is read, those films will be returned to the facility where they originated.

MRI uses a very powerful magnet, radio waves and a sophisticated computer system to produce remarkable images without x-ray radiation. Because of the powerful magnet used, certain safety precautions must be observed. Patients may not qualify for MRI if any of the following conditions exist:

  • Cardiac Pacemaker
  • Cochlear implants
  • Artificial heart valves
  • Aneurysm clips
  • Neural stimulator
  • Metal objects (or piercings) imbedded in the body
  • Metallic fragments or objects in the eye
  • Permanent make-up (eyeliner, lip liner, eyebrows, etc.)
  • Pregnanacy or IUD

When will I receive results?

After your exam, a radiologist specialized in breast imaging will review your images and a report will be provided to your physician.