Breast MRI is most often used to screen for breast cancer in women thought to have a high risk of the disease. Breast MRI also may be used to assess the extent of breast cancer. Your doctor may recommend a breast MRI if:
- You've been diagnosed with breast cancer, and your doctor wants to determine the extent of the cancer
- You have a suspected leak or rupture of a breast implant
- You're at high risk of breast cancer, defined as a lifetime risk of 20 to 25 percent or greater, as calculated by risk tools that take your family history and other factors into consideration
- You have a strong family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer
- You have very dense breast tissue, and mammogram didn't detect a prior breast cancer
- You have a history of precancerous breast changes — such as atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ — a strong family history of breast cancer and dense breast tissue
If you're unsure whether you're considered high risk, ask your doctor to help you determine your personal risk estimate. A referral to a breast clinic or breast health specialist may help you better understand your risk and your screening options.
Breast MRI is intended to be used in addition to a mammogram or another breast-imaging test — not as a replacement for a mammogram. Although it's a sensitive test, breast MRI can still miss some breast cancers that a mammogram will detect.
Aug. 22, 2013
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- Slanetz PJ. MRI of the breast and emerging technologies. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 6, 2013.
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- Saslow D, et al. American Cancer Society guidelines for breast screening with MRI as an adjunct to mammography. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2007;57:75.