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