Breast MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast — or breast MRI — is a test used to detect breast cancer and other abnormalities in the breast.

A breast MRI captures multiple images of your breast. Breast MRI images are combined, using a computer, to generate detailed pictures.

Breast MRI usually is performed after you have a biopsy that's positive for cancer, and your doctor needs more information about the extent of the disease. In certain situations, such as for women with high risk of breast cancer, breast MRI may be used with mammograms as a screening tool for detecting breast cancer.

Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect Results

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.

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