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ETMC Cancer Institute

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Breast MRI

Magnetic Resonance Breast Imaging is a supplemental tool to help us diagnose breast cancer. It is often used to investigate breast problems first detected by mammography or other imaging exams.

Younger women at high risk of breast cancer may also benefit from screening, as determined by a strong family history or a mutated breast cancer gene.

How it works
Unlike mammography, which uses low dose x-rays to image the breast, MRI uses powerful magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of the breast.

To begin the exam, the patient is positioned on a special table inside a large tube where a magnetic field is created by a magnet.

Each total MRI exam is comprised of a series of sequences with each lasting from two to 15 minutes.

An MRI sequence is an acquisition of data that yields a specific image orientation or appearance.

During the exam, a radio signal is turned on and off, and the energy, which is absorbed by different atoms in the body, is reflected back out of the body. These echoes are measured by the MRI scanner. A digital compuer reconstructs these echoes into images of the breast. The tapping heard during the MRI is created when coils are switched on and off to measure the MRI signal reflecting back out of the patient's body.

Benefits of Breast MRI

  • Can image breast implants and look for leaks or ruptures
  • Used effectively in dense breasts
  • Can help determine what type of surgery is needed (lumpectomy or mastectomy)
  • May detect breast cancer recurrences and residual tumors after lumpectomy
  • Can locate primary tumor where the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes
  • Can spot small abnormalities that are inapparent on mammography
  • May be useful in screening women at high risk for breast cancer