Breast MRI

Importance of a Breast MRI

Breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is powerful imaging technology that has been added to the more routine conventional mammography and breast ultrasound. Breast MRI, or MR Mammography, is very sensitive in providing information for the most common forms of invasive breast cancer. It does not replace standard mammography and ultrasound. In fact, some breast cancers may be better seen with routine imaging so it is always used in combination. While sensitive, breast MRI is relatively nonspecific, which means that it picks up a lot of things, but many may be benign (non-cancerous). For this reason, MRI is not a good screening tool for women of average risk.

Breast MRIs are used:

  • to determine if the cancer has spread and if it's in the opposite breast in newly diagnosed patients
  • if an MRI was not performed before a lumpectomy and the surgical margins are close or positive for cancer
  • to determine whether a tumor is responding to chemotherapy (scans are done before and after chemo)
  • when there is cancer in the lymph nodes of the armpit without knowing where the cancer started
  • if there is a suspicion of recurrence of cancer in a reconstructed breast
  • when conventional imaging results are unclear and high-risk findings warrant further examination
  • when screening for high-risk women (the American Cancer Society recommends screening breast MRI for women with greater than a 20-25 percent lifetime risk)

What to Expect

  • For elective examinations in premenopausal women, breast MRI should be performed between day 7 and 10 from the start of the last menstrual cycle
  • For other reasons (such as a new diagnosis of breast cancer) breast MRI can be performed at other times in the menstrual cycle
  • Breast MRI should usually not be performed within 6-12 months after surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy
  • Breast MRI is usually not performed in pregnant patients or lactating women
  • You should wear loose fitting clothes.
  • You will be asked a number of questions to make sure that you do not have metallic prostheses or other metallic implantable devices. These questions will be reviewed again before the MRI is performed.
  • If you are over the age of 60 or have a history of diabetes or kidney disease, you will need blood tests to assess kidney function within 30 days prior to MRI.

In addition, breast MRI requires a written order from your doctor, insurance pre-certification and access to any other breast imaging films and reports that may have been done outside the Vanderbilt Breast Center. Please call (615) 322-2064 for more information.

What We Offer

The Vanderbilt Breast Center offers the only dedicated breast MRI scanner integrated into a multidisciplinary breast center in Middle Tennessee. Our breast MRI scanner was one of the first in the United States to receive accreditation by the American College of Radiology. All exams are read by radiologists who specialize in breast and women's imaging.