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Magnetic Resonance Imaging

The FDA approved MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, in 1991 as a supplemental technique, used with mammography, to detect breast cancer. For women with breast augmentation, a breast MRI is an excellent imaging technique. Breast MRI is particularly helpful in breast cancer staging, determining appropriate breast cancer treatment, and for follow-up after treatment is complete.

MRI Procedure

While a mammogram uses radiation to screen for breast cancer, MRI uses radio waves and magnetic frequencies to develop images of the breast. Before an MRI exam of the breasts, the patient will often receive an injection of a contrast material, Gadolinium DTPA, into the vein of her arm. This helps produce better quality images during the MRI. A woman is then positioned on a table inside the MRI system. Within this system a large tube-shaped magnet creates an electromagnetic field.

The MRI exam usually consists of two to six sequences of measurements, each taking between two and fifteen minutes. During an MRI test, the patient lies still while the radio signal is turned on and off. The body absorbs or reflects the energy created by this process and the MRI scanner consistently measures the results. This exam is not painful or uncomfortable.

Benefits of MRI

In July 2001, researchers with the National Cancer Institute found that MRI was preferred over mammography for breast cancer screening in young women at higher risk for this disease. An MRI breast exam is extremely useful for a variety of reasons.

  • An MRI is extremely sensitive and is, thus, able to detect small abnormalities that may be missed with other exams.
  • MRI exams can help determine the extent of breast cancer, helping to direct the course of treatment.
  • MRIs can also determine whether breast cancer has spread to the chest wall.
  • Areolar changes can also be evaluated using MRI to determine if these abnormalities are due to cancer.
  • MRI is also thought to be a more effective screening tool for women with denser breasts.
  • MRIs can image breast implants and implant ruptures.

There are some drawbacks to MRI examinations. In some cases, an MRI is not able to distinguish between cancerous and benign breast abnormalities. It is also unable to image calcifications which can indicate breast cancer. False-positive results are a possibility when using MRI to screen for breast cancer. MRI is also not as frequently favored as a general screening tool because it is much more expensive than mammography exams. MRI may not be available at all medical settings.

Contact A Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Near You

Overall, MRI can be an excellent breast cancer-screening tool for women with augmented breasts. It is an excellent tool when used in conjunction with other screening methods to determine the presence and extent of breast cancer. If you have had or are planning on having breast surgery, please contact us to speak with a qualified surgeon in your area about MRI screening.