This is on my mind today, and I was happy to see the excellent article from Cancer Net about Breast MRIs. It is on my mind because I had my own annual MRI yesterday (thankfully, HURRAY!, all was well), but I always dread it, and I suspect that others do, too. There are various lines of thought re who needs annual MRIs, but the short summary is women who are considered to be at high risk for breast cancer are the likely candidates. For me, this began after my second breast cancer. Another group is women with a positive gene mutation and another may be young women post a first breast cancer. If you are wondering whether this should be part of your routine, talk to your doctor.
The expressed concern re MRIs from the medical community is that they are very sensitive, but non-specific--meaning that every little thing shows up, but usually the radiologist can't tell what is what. Therefore, many women have biopsies that reveal something benign. Most of us who have had breast cancer don't see that as a huge hurdle. Of course, the associated anxiety and discomfort are not pleasant, but better, we think, than not finding a cancer.
What is hard for me is the process itself. Hard, but surely manageable; I am not trying to scare anyone off who would be well served by this test. Having had a lot of chemotherapy, my veins are not good, so I am a "difficult stick". An MRI requires an IV for the contrast that is added midway through the exam. Since I am lucky enough to work down the hall from my beloved chemotherapy nurse, she puts in the needle, tapes it tightly, and both I and the MRI techs are relieved that they don't have to try to do it. The MRI machine that is used for breast MRIs is not stressful in the claustrophobic ways that others may be, because you lie on your stomach (with your breast/s hanging through convenient little holes), so you are unaware of the close quarters. But you do have to lie very still for 30 minutes or so, and the noise is pretty loud. Once done, you are entitled to feel proud of yourself.
Here is the start of this informative article and then a link to read more:
A breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) exam is a diagnostic examination that uses magnetic fields to capture multiple images of the breast tissue, which are combined to create detailed, computer-generated pictures of your breasts. A breast MRI sometimes is used to diagnose and evaluate breast tumors. Under some circumstances, this test may better identify a small mass within a woman's breast than a mammogram or
ultrasound, particularly for women with very dense (non-fatty) breast tissue.
Why a breast MRI is performed
A breast MRI test may be used to screen women who are at a high risk for breast cancer or to find out more about the stage of cancer (how much the cancer has developed and spread) once an initial breast cancer diagnosis is made. It may also be used to monitor the response of breast cancer to chemotherapy or during follow-up care to evaluate the site of a lumpectomy (where cancerous breast tissue has been
surgically removed). Women who have undergone a mastectomy (surgical removal of the entire breast) and had their breast(s) reconstructed through implants may need a breast MRI to determine if implants have ruptured (torn or leaked).
For cancer screening purposes, a breast MRI is not a replacement for a mammogram. Although it is a highly effective test, a breast MRI occasionally may fail to detect cancer that is detected by a mammogram . A breast MRI may also lead to a false positive result, which means a mass or other change is detected but after further evaluation is determined to be benign (non-cancerous).