MRI Breast studies may be done for Screening for Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Staging or Breast Implant assessment.
Breast MRI is used as a supplemental form of screening. It does not replace your routine mammograms.
Your doctor will discuss your risk factors with you and whether MRI may be beneficial.
Breast Cancer Screening
Several groups of women may benefit from a breast MRI, including young women with a strong family history of breast cancer, or young women who are gene carriers for the BRCA 1 or 2 genes.
There are also some women who have particularly dense breasts where Breast MRI may be the most sensitive test to detect breast cancer.
Studies have shown that MRI has a higher sensitivity in detecting breast cancer than other screening methods. It is most beneficial in those women at a higher risk of breast cancer, either from family or personal history, genetic risks (BRCA 1 and 2 carriers) or past history of atypical cells on a biopsy. There are also some women who have dense breasts where a mammogram is more difficult to interpret and where the surrounding normal breast tissue hides the cancers.
Breast Cancer Staging
Your breast surgeon may recommend this study after the diagnosis of breast cancer has been made on a mammogram, tomosynthesis and ultrasound, following biopsy.
Not all breast cancers are the same, and they aren’t all treated in the same way, which is why having further testing and getting the most accurate diagnosis is important. Breast MRI is helpful in determining the size of your breast cancer and how much of the breast is involved and will assist your surgeon in what type of surgery is best for you and whether you may need additional treatment including radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy.
You will lie in the scanner on your front with your arms above your head, and your breasts will lay in a special coil, which is not tight like a mammogram. Your breasts need to be in the centre of the magnet, and you will go into the magnet head first. The scan is noisy, so you will be given headphones with music and a buzzer to press if you want to talk to the technologist at any time.
It is important that you lie still.
Please tell our staff before your scan if you suffer from claustrophobia (fear of small spaces). If sedation (medication to relax you) is required, you will need to arrange for someone to drive you home.
Breast MRI involves the use of a contrast dye (Gadovist), which is given through a needle (intravenous cannula) placed in your arm.
Before your Scan
When making your appointment for a Breast MRI, our clerical team will ask questions about your menstrual cycle.
It is important that this study is done during day 7 – 14 of your menstrual cycle, if you have one, as it is more sensitive for the detection of small cancers in the breast.
This menstrual cycle guide is used for Screening studies but not for Staging studies as results are sped up so you can start your treatment as soon as possible.
If you no longer have a menstrual cycle or require an urgent Breast MRI for Cancer Staging, our clerical team is trained to accommodate your appointment needs.
Because MRI uses large and strong magnets to create images, it is important that jewellery such as watches, chains, earrings and other metallic items such as eye-glasses are removed before the scan. You may also be asked to change into an examination gown for your safety and to make sure your clothing does not affect the images and diagnostic quality of the scan.
Risks / Side effects
As part of the MRI examination, you may need to have an injection of a contrast agent (dye) known as Gadolinium. This medication is administered intravenously (injection into vein) through a needle. Overall MRI contrast injection is a safe procedure. Occasionally patients feel a little nauseous but this only lasts momentarily. More serious allergic type reactions, although possible, are extremely rare. The staff in the MRI department are fully trained to deal with such a reaction should it occur.
Before the examination, our trained staff will explain the examination, discuss any concerns and prepare you for your examination.
The entire process (preparation and imaging) can take 30 – 45 minutes.
When you arrive for your examination, you will be asked to fill out a MRI safety questionnaire and a clinical history form that is used by our doctors in assessing your case.
Are you ready to make your Breast Imaging appointment?
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