A part of the body on the chest called breast is usually associated with women as the main function of it is to feed the offspring. It is also regarded as an external identification of femininity or part of sexual attractiveness. Surprisingly, men also have breasts but it is usually not that visible and not functional like in women. Just like any other body parts, the breast is also susceptible to getting affected by disease. In regular health screening, you might have heard about mammography in detecting breast issues. The question now is, what does MRI show on the breast?
Before going further on breast MRI, do you know how MRI works in general? MRI is a large machine and shaped like a small tunnel. This machine creates strong magnetic waves around the patient. The magnetic field and the radio waves, alters the hydrogen atom’s natural alignment in the body. This is made possible since the human body is made up of water molecules which do consist of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Thus, when patients lie under the powerful scanner magnets, the protons inside the hydrogen are lined up. Short bursts of radio waves are then sent to knock protons out of alignment and then realign. Receiver will then track the activity of the protons and form a two-dimensional image of the body structure or organ on the computer screen.
For breast MRI, women lie face down with the breast positioned through openings in the table and arms above the head. The MRI machine has a special device called a dedicated breast coil to get breast images. Breast MRI usually required the use of contrast injected through the vein of the arm. This dye acts as a contrast that will give clear images that outline the abnormalities. MRI, used with mammography and breast ultrasound, is indeed useful in diagnosing breast cancer. Research found that MRI is able to detect breast cancer with breast implants and younger women with dense breast tissue.
Breast MRI is usually performed in patients with biopsy results showing positive for cancer. Breast MRI is also used in those with high risk of breast cancer, have strong family history of breast cancer or inherited breast cancer gene. Breast MRI is also used to determine if cancer is limited to only one area of breast or more. Beside breast MRI for diagnosing breast cancer, it may also be used to treat patients with suspected leak or rupture breast implant and in those with breast tissue where mammograms are unable to detect signs of breast cancer.
What does MRI show on the breast? Results will show abnormality in the breast detected by MRI. This includes the shape and size of the lesion. Border of the lesion or margin can be seen and often be an indicator of severity of breast cancer. The dye used helps to give contrast to small structures in the breast and is helpful in identifying signs of swelling or active site of breast cancer.
Since MRI does not use radiation, it makes a good screening tool for those younger than 40 and increases the number of screenings per year for women at high risk for breast cancer. Breast MRI in general does not cause pain but having to lie still inside the narrow tube may make some people anxious as at times patients need to hold breath or keep very still during certain parts of the test. Loud sound from the machine might be causing discomfort to some. Since dye can cause a reaction, patient who have a history of allergy need to inform their healthcare provider before the procedure. If patients have implanted medical advice before such as pacemaker or defibrillator, the patient should notify this to their healthcare provider before MRI.
However, just as with many things in medicine, there are always pros and cons. While breast MRI seems promising in helping diagnosing breast cancer, there are disadvantages that always need to be considered by healthcare professionals before running breast MRI. Firstly, it often results in more false positive test results. This means that the test finds something that looks suspicious but does not necessarily cause cancer. What is scary is this may lead to a lot of unnecessary biopsy and other tests if MRI is made as screening tools for everyone. Secondly, MRI is unable to identify calcifications or tiny calcium deposits that should indicate breast cancer. Thirdly, MRI is more expensive than mammography and is not widely available.
It can be concluded that MRI for breasts used a specific device. Breast MRI can be a good tool for screening breast cancer in certain groups of people. Breast MRI is likely to be used in diagnosing or confirming breast cancer. It is important for patients to really understand why they need to go through an MRI test as the test itself can be quite expensive and may be unnecessary in certain conditions. Patients need to have thorough discussion with their healthcare provider before getting any test and ensure to follow all advice or instructions.