Diagnostic Breast MRI- About the Exam

Mountain Medical offers diagnostic breast MRI exam for selected patients with a new diagnosis of breast cancer to help determine the extent of the tumor before surgery or other treatments are started or to assess abnormalities in the breasts that have been detected by mammography and ultrasound.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, a breast MRI may be performed to determine:

  • how large the cancer is
  • whether it involves the underlying muscle, overlying skin or nipple
  • if there are other cancers in the same breast or unsuspected cancer in the opposite breast.
  • if there are any abnormally large lymph nodes in the armpit

Sometimes an abnormality seen on a mammogram cannot be adequately evaluated by additional mammography and ultrasound alone. In these rare cases, MRI can be used to help determine if the abnormality needs biopsy or can safely be left alone.

Diagnostic MRI may be used to evaluate lumpectomy sites in the years following breast cancer treatment, if diagnostic mammography or ultrasound are inconclusive. Scarring and recurrent cancer can look similar on mammography and ultrasound. If there is a change in a lumpectomy scar by either mammography or on a physical exam, MRI can help determine whether the change is normal maturation of the scar or a recurrence of the cancer.

In some cases, breast cancer will be treated with chemotherapy before it is removed by surgery. This is called Neoadjubance Chemotherapy. In these cases, Diagnostic MRI is often used to monitor how well the chemotherapy is working and to reevaluate the amount of cancer still present before the surgery is performed.

MRI produces detailed images of soft tissues and structures inside the breasts. Recent research has found that MRI can locate some small breast lesions sometimes missed by other breast imaging. Breast MRI is also used to detect breast cancer recurrence or residual tumors after lumpectomy.

What you can expect during a diagnostic breast MRI:

  • You will be asked to lie on your stomach on the movable examination table with both breasts hanging freely into a cushioned recess containing the signal receiver.
  • If a contrast material is used, your technologist will insert an IV into a vein in the hand or arm.
  • The examination table will move slowly into the opening of the MRI.
  • The technologist will leave the room while the MRI is being performed.
  • If a contrast material is used, it will be injected into the IV after an initial series of exams.
  • An additional series of images may be taken following the injection.
  • You will be asked to lie still for up to 15 minutes at a time while images are taken.
  • A breast MRI is usually completed within 45 to 60 minutes.

Learn how to prepare for diagnostic breast MRI.

Learn the benefits and risks of diagnostic breast MRI.

Watch the MRI - What to Expect Video.