Molecular Breast Imaging

Although mammography is rightly thought to be the best way to screen for breast cancer for most people, there may be individual factors that may mean it is not the best approach for you. For example, molecular breast imaging (MBI) is an imaging technique that can identify tumors in mammographically dense breasts often not visible with digital mammography or ultrasound. Mammography uses X-ray technology, so the images of both tumors and dense breast tissue often appear white. Clinical studies show that MBI allows differentiation of the tumor and is able to detect up to three times as many cancers in women with dense breast tissue.

What to Expect During MBI
Molecular breast imaging feels similar to a mammogram, but with much less compression. Before the images are taken, your nuclear medicine technologist injects a radioisotope that is absorbed by cancer cells more than normal cells, making the cancer cells appear white on the images. The radiation dose is roughly equivalent to digital mammography.

When MBI Is Useful
Your doctor may recommend molecular breast imaging to help identify questionable findings arising from a mammogram or if lumps are found with a physical exam.

Women who have dense breast tissue may have improved detection of early breast cancer with MBI in conjunction with mammography. Breast density can be determined by your breast radiologist using mammography.

In addition to dense breast tissue, your doctor may order MBI if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You have abnormal findings after a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound
  • You are at a high risk for malignancy or for the evaluation of a suspected recurrence
  • You have breast implants
  • You need to have a magnetic resonance image (MRI) scan but you have an implant such as a pacemaker that would be affected by the magnets used in MRI
  • You have a BRCA1 (breast cancer 1, early onset) or BRCA2 (breast cancer 2, early onset) mutation
  • You were recently diagnosed with breast cancer
  • Your response to chemotherapy needs to be assessed


Houston Methodist provides molecular breast imaging at the following convenient locations: