Sometimes women with a higher risk of developing breast cancer may benefit from more thorough screening. Examples of higher risk would include women who carry a strong genetic predisposition to breast cancer, such as carriers of a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, women with dense breasts (making mammography difficult), and those who have a first-degree relative with breast cancer. Breast MRI may be offered to such women in addition to annual mammography to decrease the risk of interval breast cancers.
Patients should discuss with their providers if Breast MRI is right for them. To schedule an appointment with a provider in our high-risk clinic, please call (401) 453-7540. Breast MRI is a very sensitive imaging study and may further help to find cancer at the earliest, most curable stages in these high-risk women. Because its findings are less specific, breast MRI may find lesions defined as potentially suspicious, but which prove to be benign. Therefore, it is not a screening device for the “average risk” woman in the general population.
Several other roles for breast MRI are evolving and further demonstrate its importance as an imaging device. Data from clinical trials demonstrate that breast MRI is helpful in defining second primary breast cancers in the same or opposite breast at the time of initial diagnosis. Therefore, the American Cancer Society has recommended that all women diagnosed with breast cancer undergo an MRI at the time of diagnosis. In the setting of locally advanced breast cancer, when chemotherapy or hormonal therapy is given before definitive surgery, breast MRI is critical in evaluating response to treatment before surgery. Breast MRI also helps define the extent of disease and can influence decisions regarding the most appropriate surgical procedure. As experience increases with breast MRI, noninvasive breast malignancies, such as DCIS, are being characterized and detected through MRI.