Mammography and Breast MRI
Thanks to early detection and better treatments, most breast cancer is detected at a curable stage. As a result, there are now three million breast cancer survivors living in the USA. Since we do not yet know how to prevent breast cancer, early detection offers the best chance for survival.
When and how often should I get a mammogram?
Mammography detects breast cancer long before it can be seen or felt in your breast. The current screening recommendations for women of average risk (meaning you do not have a family or personal medical history that puts you at high risk for breast cancer) include:
- Age 20-39: Clinical breast exam every two to three years. Breast self-exam is an option.
- Age 40: Baseline mammography starts at this age. Then, after 40, annual mammograms are required.
- Elderly women: Continue annual screening for as long as you are reasonably healthy and would be a candidate for breast cancer treatment.
- If you've been told you have dense breast tissue, you should be aware that this could obscure a potential abnormality; for this reason, breast ultrasound and/or MRI are often used in conjunction with mammography to screen for breast cancer. The only way to know if your tissue is dense is by having a mammogram. We will let you know if your tissue is dense, and if so, can perform screening ultrasound at the same appointment as your mammogram.
The Breast Center was among the first in the United States to use 3D Breast tomosynthesis (commonly called 3D mammography) for breast screening. This technology is used in conjunction with 2D digital mammography to deliver the most accurate screening and diagnostic breast imaging.
What are the advantages of 3D mammography?
Numerous large studies have shown that 3D mammography results in up to a 40% increase in the detection of invasive breast cancer and 15% fewer unnecessary recalls and false positives. 3D mammography has also been shown to decrease the number of unnecessary biopsies. Here's how and why:
- Higher resolution, more definitive images
- Greater accuracy for the earliest detection of breast cancer, at its most curable stage
- Clearer visualization of overlapping structures (Note: This does not replace the need for dense breast ultrasounds.)
- Multiple images from a variety of angles are captured during one sweep of the x-ray tube to provide a variety of views
- Less likelihood of needing additional imaging or an unnecessary biopsy
What is a breast MRI? Why might I need one?
Compared to mammography and ultrasound, Breast MRI is a completely different way of looking at the breast. It is an advanced tool using MRI technology, sophisticated computers, and 3-D techniques that look deeply into the breast to discover abnormalities that might not be visible in other exams.
Who should get an annual breast MRI screening?
- Women who have a BRCA gene mutation or have a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) with a BRCA mutation
- Women who received radiation treatment to the chest between the ages 10 and 30
- Women who have a rare medical condition linked to breast cancer, Li-Fraumeni, Cowdon, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndromes, or have a first-degree relative with one of these syndromes
- Women with a 20-25% or greater lifetime risk of developing breast cancer
- Other reasons for getting a Breast MRI include: current breast cancer diagnosis, prior to breast cancer surgery, and to detect a breast implant leak.
Do I still need to have a yearly mammogram if I get a breast MRI?
Absolutely. A Breast MRI should not take the place of your annual mammogram. If you are at high-risk, you should have an annual Breast MRI in addition to your annual mammogram.
What should I expect when getting a Breast MRI?
Prior to the exam, an IV will be inserted into your arm to administer the contrast material. You will lie very still, face down with your breasts resting in a cushioned coil while you are moved in and out of the MRI machine. Halfway through the exam, you will receive a painless injection of contrast and more images will be taken. If you are claustrophobic or anxious about your MRI exam, you may want to contact your physician at least two days prior to your appointment to obtain a prescription for a mild sedative.
After the exam is complete, the radiologist will read and interpret your MRI and your physician will be contacted with the results.
How do I prepare for a breast MRI or mammogram?
- For a breast MRI, normal daily routine is fine. Please do not wear any jewelry.
- For a mammogram, do not wear deodorant, talcum powder, or lotion under your arms or on your breasts on the day of your exam as they can appear as calcium spots on your mammogram. Please be sure to describe any breast symptoms or problems to the technologist performing the exam.
- If you have had previous mammograms at another location, please be sure to bring your past images with you so that the radiologist can compare them successfully. We’re also happy to obtain any past images for you.
How long will it take for me to see the results of my exam?
A report will be generated and sent to your physician. To obtain copies of your scan, please complete the Authorization of Release form.