At our Nutley and West Caldwell offices we have a state-of-the-art high field strength short bore magnet (or “MRI”). This allows another, detailed way of looking at the breast tissue and is highly sensitive in detecting breast cancer. If you have a questionable mammogram or ultrasound, or if you have a strong family history and/or genetic risk for breast carcinoma, breast MRI may be recommended.

In addition to the top-of-the-line MRI scanner, Montclair Radiology has a computer-aided detection system for breast MRI called DynaCad, which color codes any areas of suspicion detected by the computer for the radiologists’s evaluation. This state-of-the art system has Montclair Radiology at the forefront of breast MRI in northern New Jersey.

Breast MRI uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look specifically at the breast. It is a non-invasive procedure that doctors can use to determine what the inside of the breast looks like without having to do surgery or flatten the breast (as in a mammogram). Each exam produces hundreds of images of the breast, cross-sectional in all three directions (side-to-side, top-to-bottom, front-to-back), which are then read by a Radiologist. No radioactivity is involved. The recent interest in MRI of the breast follows reports that malignant (or cancerous) lesions get brighter following a contrast (gadolinium) injection. MRI has been shown to detect small breast lesions that are sometimes missed by mammography, and MRI can successfully image the dense breast (usually found in younger women) and breast implants.

One disadvantage of breast MRI is it doesn’t detect certain types of very small calcifications, which on a mammogram can be an early indication of cancer. Instead, breast MRI uses different cancer markers, including the blood flow of the tumor, as well as the size and appearance of the tumor. MRI is also much more expensive, complicated, and labor intensive as compared to mammography, which is why it is a specialized study rather than a widely used screening tool.

What to expect

For MRI of the breast, the patient lies on her stomach with both breasts hanging freely into a cushioned recess containing the signal receiver (also known as the breast coil). The entire bed on which she is lying is advanced into the opening of the magnet (a tube-like machine that looks like a giant doughnut–open at both ends). The subject will be asked to lie still for up to 15 minutes at a time while the computer acquires the images; the total examination is made up of several scans, each usually 5 to 15 minutes in length and the patient is usually in the magnet for 40-60 minutes. An intravenous injection of a small amount of MRI contrast, called gadolinium, is necessary for most breast MRI examinations.

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