Sometimes, the MRI examination of the breast can be used not only complementarily, but also as an alternative to x-ray mammography. It can help to clarify certain issues that may have possibly been left open after mammography and other examination procedures of the breast. As no x-rays are used during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), this method is considered to be especially gentle.
The breast MRI is performed, for example, in order to precisely examine patients with breast cancer before surgery. In the after-care of patients who have already undergone breast surgery or have breast implants, MR Mammography is also used. This method complements the conventional x-ray mammography procedure, especially for women with dense tissue structures.
MR Mammography indisputably has the highest sensitivity and preciseness for the detection of breast tumours that are already growing invasively.
Who are the examinations intended for?
For women with diagnosed changes in the breast tissue (such as a digital rectal examination, or abnormalities in the x-ray or ultrasound examination): Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the breast may clarify whether the changes in the breast are benign or malignant, in the cases when the usual screening tests such as mammography (x-ray) and ultrasound do not provide reliable information.
- For patients with breast cancer, as a test before surgery to exclude other focuses of cancer and to plan the operative procedure. Should chemotherapy be required before surgery, its efficiency and progress can be checked.
- For breast cancer patients in after-care to exclude a scar recurrence (tumour formation on the scar) with greater safety.
- For women with breast implants (e.g. silicone): The implants can interfere with the conventional diagnostic mammography (the implant covers large parts of the glandular tissue as a ‘shadow’). In addition, the position and integrity of the implants can be checked.
- For patients who may have specific reasons which do not allow them to undergo breast cancer screening or x-ray mammography or they do not wish to do it: For example, young women with frequent breast cancer cases in the family history, who need an early detection of breast cancer as early as after the age of 30.
Advantages and disadvantages of magnetic resonance imaging of the female breast
- The images are created with the help of a strong magnetic field. X-rays are not required.
- The magnetic resonance imaging can be so good that it complements mammography and / or breast ultrasound in case of appropriate indications.
Magnetic resonance imaging alone cannot always distinguish benign tumours from malignant ones or detect breast cancer in its preliminary stages (carcinoma in situ).
The procedure is performed completely without x-rays. However, in Germany it may only be performed by radiologists.