Breast MRI

At Providence, we believe in working together to achieve optimal breast health. This is why we offer breast MRIs in addition to other breast imaging tests. A breast MRI offers a safe and accurate approach to detecting breast cancers and breast abnormalities.

A breast MRI is a type of MRI imaging test used to determine the extent of breast cancer by detecting abnormalities within the breast. It uses a non-radioactive contrast dye in combination with a powerful magnetic field to produce high-resolution images of breast tissue.

Breast MRI is also used to detect breast implant integrity. An implant rupture, especially if it’s a silicone implant, can be difficult to identify. It also serves as a valuable resource in detecting breast cancer for those with implants, where mammography alone is unable to make an accurate diagnosis.

Breast MRIs work best when used in addition to other breast imaging exams, not as a replacement. Although it's a very sensitive test, breast MRI can still miss some breast cancers that a mammogram will detect.

This leading-edge technology is a vital tool in breast cancer treatment.  In fact, these highly sophisticated imaging services create a more efficient process, allowing shorter examination times, quicker results, more convenience and less anxiety for you. Breast MRIs allow your doctors to begin creating a treatment protocol immediately. 

A breast MRI may be recommended if:

  • You've been diagnosed with breast cancer and your doctors want to determine the extent of the cancer, or your cancer is 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 — or a strong family history of breast cancer and dense breast tissue.
  • You have breast cancer cells in your lymph nodes, but your mammogram and ultrasound cannot find the cancer.

Breast MRIs follow the same procedural steps as an MRI scan. However, unlike a standard MRI, a breast MRI requires you to lie face down on a comfortable MRI bed. The bed has a large opening to accommodate for your breasts without compression. The opening also contains coils that help detect the and image the contrast dye in the breast.

Before your breast MRI scan, you will be given a contrast dye to help the MRI machine image your breast with more detail and accuracy. Unlike other contrast dyes, the dye used for a breast MRI does not expose you to radiation.

Once you’ve received your contrast dye, you lie on the MRI bed as it enters the MRI machine. The machine is like a large tube that surrounds your entire body. The test is painless, however, patients who are claustrophobic may find it somewhat uncomfortable.

While your breasts are scanned, it is normal for the machine’s magnet to make loud and repetitive tapping noises. That magnet sends information into a computer controlled by an MRI technician and located in a separate room.

The MRI technician monitors you and the MRI machine throughout the entire process. A microphone allows you to speak to your technician at all times. The computer processes the information sent by the magnet and radio waves and produces an image. The scan can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

Unlike X-rays, breast MRIs are free of radiation, safe and non-invasive. The risks involved in the procedure are caused by the large and powerful magnet that makes up the machine.

Due to the incredibly strong magnetic field generated by the MRI, it is important to make sure there is no metal in your body before entering the machine. Your doctor will ask you to please remove jewelry, watches, dentures and any other object that could interfere with the magnet.

Be sure to inform your doctor prior to your scan if you have any of the following within your body, as they could pose risks to you or alter the images produced by the scan:

  • Pacemaker
  • Artificial heart valves
  • Implanted nerve stimulators
  • Metal fragments such as shrapnel
  • Pins or screws
  • Metal joints
  • Hearing aids
  • Cochlear implants

Receiving the results of a breast MRI can often cause anxiety and fear. It’s important to note that 80 percent of lumps are benign and not cancerous. Your Providence medical team will provide you with the most comfortable and empathetic care during your screening and after as you process your results.

Sometimes the cancers detected by breast MRIs are aggressive and have spread throughout the body, unable to be treated. We make it our mission to detect cancers before symptoms begin, which is why we urge each of our patients to come in for regular screenings.