MRI of the breast offers valuable information about many breast conditions that cannot be obtained by other imaging modalities, such as mammography or ultrasound.

MRI of the breast offers valuable information about many breast conditions that cannot be obtained by other imaging modalities, such as mammography or ultrasound.

MRI uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone and virtually all other internal body structures. The images can then be examined on a computer monitor, transmitted electronically, printed or copied to a CD.

Detailed MR images allow physicians to better evaluate various parts of the body and determine the presence of certain diseases that may not be assessed as well with other imaging methods such as x-ray, ultrasound or computed tomography (also called CT or CAT scanning).

A registered technologist will position you on a padded scanning table which slides into our High Field Open MRI magnet where the imaging is performed. You will lie face down on your stomach with your breasts positioned into cushioned openings, which are surrounded by a breast coil. The breast coil is a signal receiver that works with the MRI unit to create the images.

Click here for a two minute overview of breast MRI.

An initial series of images will be taken. The patient is then given an intravenous injection of a special contrast material (called gadolinium) that helps to highlight various areas in the breast tissue. Several additional sets of images will follow. During the exam, you will need to lie very still and breathe normally. The technologist will offer you headphones to listen to music and help you relax. As the equipment scans, you will hear peculiar banging noises from the magnet which are completely normal. You may feel a slight vibration or warmth. It is important to remember that the DIS technologist can see and hear you at all times. A breast MRI study usually takes about 45 minutes.

Some common uses for breast MRI include:

  • Screening in women at high risk for breast cancer

For women at high risk for breast cancer, typically because of a strong family history, MRI may be an appropriate tool to screen for breast cancer. A strong family history is defined as a mother or sister who has had breast cancer before age 50. It can also be aunts or cousins, including relatives who have had ovarian cancer. Your radiologist or primary care doctor can look at your family history and determine if screening MRI may be appropriate for you.

  • Determining the extent of cancer after a new diagnosis of breast cancer.
  • After being diagnosed with breast cancer, a breast MRI may be performed to determine:
  • How large the cancer is and whether it involves the underlying pectoral muscle.
  • If there are other cancers in the same breast and/or an unsuspected cancer in the opposite breast.
  • If there are any abnormally large lymph nodes in the armpit, which can be a sign the cancer has spread to that site.
  • Further evaluating hard-to-assess abnormalities seen on mammography.

Sometimes, an abnormality seen on a mammogram cannot be completely evaluated by additional mammography and ultrasound alone. In these rare cases, MRI can be used to definitively determine if the abnormality needs biopsy or can be safely be left alone.

  • Evaluating lumpectomy sites in the years following breast cancer treatment.

Scarring and recurrent cancer look identical on mammography and ultrasound. If there is a change in a lumpectomy scar by either mammography or on a physical exam, MRI can help determine whether the change is normal maturation of the scar or a recurrence of the cancer.

  • Following progress of tumor regression during neoadjuvant chemotherapy before definitive surgery to remove the breast cancer.

In some cases, breast cancer will be treated with chemotherapy before it has been removed by surgery. In these cases, MRI is often used to monitor how well the chemotherapy is working and to re-evaluate the amount of tumor still present before the surgery is performed.

  • Evaluating breast implants.

MRI is the best test for determining whether silicone implants have ruptured.

Breast MRI is performed at our DIS Metairie and Covington facilities.