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 they are always used in combination. While sensitive, a breast MRI is relatively nonspecific, which means that it picks up a lot of things. Many of them may be benign (non-cancerous), so a breast MRI is not a good screening tool for women of average risk.

  • When 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.
    • As screening for high-risk women (the American Cancer Society recommends screening breast MRI for women with greater than a 20%-25% 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, a 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. 

Why Choose Breast MRIs at Vanderbilt

  • Recognized care

    We are accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. This means our institution is held to the highest standards of care for patients with breast disease. The Vanderbilt Breast Center is affiliated with Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, which is designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute, the highest ranking by the world’s leading authority on cancer. The Vanderbilt Breast Center is recognized as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology. This designation is considered the gold standard in medical imaging.

  • Specialized care

    Our doctors all specialize in the diagnosis and management of breast disease with a focus on breast cancer. Our program is the only one in Middle Tennessee with pathologists and radiologists dedicated entirely to diagnosing and treating breast cancer. This means our specialists can provide a more accurate diagnosis for you. Often, patients seek us for a second opinion on their diagnosis and treatment plan.

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