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MRI Breast

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive, painless imaging exam that assists your physician in the diagnosis and treatment of specific medical conditions. MRI uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to provide detailed images of soft tissues and body structures. MRI of the breast provides valuable information about breast conditions that cannot be obtained by other imaging modalities, such as mammography and ultrasound.

Your doctor may recommend a Breast MRI to:

  • Assess multiple tumor locations, especially prior to breast conservation surgery
  • Identify early breast cancer not detected through other means, especially in women with dense breast tissue and those at high risk for the disease
  • Evaluate abnormalities detected by mammography or ultrasound
  • Distinguish between scar tissue and recurrent tumors
  • Determine whether cancer detected by mammography, ultrasound or after surgical biopsy has spread further in the breast or into the chest wall
  • Assess the effect of chemotherapy

For some types of exams, you will be asked to fast for 8-12 hours. Unless you are told otherwise, you may follow your regular daily routine and take medications as usual. Some MRI examinations may require the patient to swallow contrast material or receive an injection of contrast into the bloodstream. The radiologist should also know if you have any serious health problems or if you have recently had surgery. Some conditions, such as severe kidney disease may prevent you from being given contrast material for an MRI. Women should always inform their physician or technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.

The traditional MRI unit is a large cylinder-shaped tube surrounded by a circular magnet. You will lie on a moveable examination table that slides into the center of the magnet. Unlike conventional X-ray examinations and computed tomography (CT) scans, MRI does not depend on ionizing radiation. Instead, while in the magnet, radio waves redirect the axes of spinning protons, which are the nuclei of hydrogen atoms, in a strong magnetic field. The magnetic field is produced by passing an electric current through wire coils in most MRI units. Other coils, located in the machine and in some cases, placed around the part of the body being imaged, send and receive radio waves, producing signals that are detected by the coils.

A computer then processes the signals and generates a series of images each of which shows a thin slice of the body. The images can then be studied from different angles by the interpreting physician. Overall, the differentiation of abnormal (diseased) tissue from normal tissues is often better with MRI than with other imaging modalities such as X-ray, CT and ultrasound.

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