Breast MRI | Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center | Loyola Medicine

Breast MRI

Breast Imaging Technique to Diagnose Cancer

Loyola Medicine is committed to using the latest technology and state-of-the-art equipment for the early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. Whether you have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer or are at high risk for developing breast cancer, a breast MRI may be one of the tests your doctor recommends as a supplement to your regular mammogram in screening for breast cancer

A breast MRI exam is a breast imaging study that utilizes a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of your breast and surrounding tissues. 

Why Choose Loyola for Your Breast MRI 

Loyola’s breast care team includes fellowship-trained dedicated breast radiologists who are experts in the field of breast imaging, as well as technologists who are specially trained in performing breast MRIs. Our goal is to maximize your comfort while performing the most accurate diagnostic test possible. 


Why is a Breast MRI Performed?

A breast MRI is generally performed if you have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and your doctor needs more information about the cancer. This exam may also be performed in conjunction with a mammogram if you are at high risk for developing breast cancer. Based on current research, Loyola’s breast care experts recommend using an MRI in breast imaging in the following cases: 

  • High-risk patients — A breast MRI is an important supplemental screening examination that is used in conjunction with mammography in patients who are considered high-risk. Patients who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, a history of mediastinal irradiation (typically for Hodgkins disease) or certain patients with a significant family history of breast cancer are considered high risk for developing breast cancer. 
  • New diagnosis or recurrence — A breast MRI exam may be used to assess the local extent of breast cancer in some patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer or in patients with localized recurrence of breast cancer and is useful in determining not only the size of the breast tumor but also whether there is a single tumor or multiple tumors within the same breast or whether there is any evidence of cancer in the opposite breast. 
  • Monitor treatment success — A breast MRI can also be used to monitor treatment response in certain patients. Cancer treatment may include neoadjuvant therapy, specifically chemotherapy or hormone therapy used to shrink the cancer prior to surgery. MRI may be used to accurately measure tumor shrinkage. 
  • Silicone implants — A breast MRI exam is also routinely performed to evaluate silicone implants for potential complications, including leakage. 

What to Expect During a Breast MRI

During the MRI exam, you will lie face down on a scanning table that contains openings in which your breasts will lie. The exam table slides into the opening of the MRI machine and a magnetic field is created around you while radio waves are directed at your body, which results in computer-generated images of your breasts and surrounding tissues. You will not feel anything during the test, but the machine can be rather loud so you may want to ask to wear earplugs during the test. 

Usually, a contrast dye will be injected through an IV line in your arm during which time you will be asked to lie very still. This contrast dye is used to enhance the appearance of tissue and blood vessels on the images of your breasts, including abnormal areas of enhancement that correspond to breast cancer tissue. 

The test takes approximately 45 minutes to complete. Once the MRI is over, you are able to go home and resume normal activity.

Breast MRI Risks

A breast MRI is an extremely safe procedure that carries very little risk.  Possible risks associated with this procedure are: 

  • Risk of an allergic reaction to the contrast dye.
  • False positive results from MR imaging may occur, resulting in the need for additional imaging or even biopsy. However, such false positive results are far outweighed by the benefits of this exam in patients recently diagnosed with or at high or increased risk for developing breast cancer.
  • Rarely, contrast-associated problems may occur in patients with known renal failure, which is why blood testing may be performed prior to MR scanning to determine if you have normal kidney function.