Breast MRI uses strong magnetic fields to create views inside the body. Houston Methodist was one of the first in the nation to offer MRI as a diagnostic tool for breast cancer and other abnormalities. Unlike the X-rays used in conventional mammography, MRI scans do not expose the patient to radiation, and they can offer higher-resolution images than a conventional mammogram.
Breast MRI is not a replacement for mammography or ultrasound breast imaging but rather a supplemental tool for detecting, staging and deciding treatment for breast cancer and other breast abnormalities.
Mammography offers excellent diagnostic quality for most patients. In certain cases, however, a breast MRI may be recommended:
- When the patient is at high risk for breast cancer
- When certain genetic factors are present
- If breast tissue is very dense
- When there is a strong family history of breast cancer
The indications for breast MRI are constantly changing as more data becomes available. In addition to being used as a better tool for breast cancer detection in patients with high risk for breast cancer, this new technique can be used to help identify questionable findings arising from a complex mammogram or physical exam.
What to Expect and Preparing for Your Breast MRI
The MRI machine produces a powerful magnetic field, which can interfere with metal objects. Prior to the procedure, you should inform your doctor and the technologist if you have any of the following medical devices that may contain metal:
- Artificial heart valve
- Implanted drug infusion port
- Infusion catheter
- Intrauterine device (IUD)
- Artificial limb
- Joint prosthesis
- Implanted nerve stimulator
- Metal pins, screws, plates or surgical staples
Breast MRI cannot be performed on people who have an implanted medical device that contains metal:
- Internal defibrillator
- Cochlear implant
- Clip for brain aneurysm
- Implanted electronic device (pacemaker)
Patients are instructed prior to the procedure to remove any objects that may contain metal:
- Credit cards
- Hearing aids
- Metal zippers or clothing accessories
- Removable dental work
- Pocket knives
- Eye glasses
During a breast MRI, you will be asked to lie face down on a special table, with your breasts placed in openings in the table. Contrast material will be injected into a vein to increase the amount of contrast in the MRI. The process is painless, and will last between 30 minutes and one hour. Both breasts are examined simultaneously. It is very important to stay still during the MRI for an accurate reading. If you are claustrophobic, you can ask your referring physician about a mild sedative that may help make the procedure more comfortable.
There is only a small amount of breast compression applied to the breast to prevent motion during an MRI procedure. The amount of breast compression is significantly less than mammography and most patients are comfortable throughout the procedure.
You can learn more about screening, diagnostic and risk-assessment services offered by the Houston Methodist by clicking on the type of service listed below:
- Digital mammography
- Diagnostic ultrasound
- Molecular breast Imaging
- Minimally invasive biopsy procedure
- MRI-guided biopsy
- Ultrasound-guided biopsy
- Stereotactic biopsy
- Diagnostic and genetic testing
- Bone densitometry
Take a Proactive Approach
Talking to your doctor about your risk for breast cancer is an important step to take. Houston Methodist can be an important part of this process, providing information about your specific risk factors and ways you may be able to reduce your risk. These conversations are also a great way to discuss breast cancer detection — and if done early, it is one of the best ways to improve the likelihood of successful treatment.
Houston Methodist provides breast MRI and MRI guided biopsies at the following convenient locations: