MRI breast cancer screening

November 12, 2012

MRI breast cancer screening

Magnetic resonance breast imaging has been used as a tool for diagnosing breast cancer since 1991. Together with mammography technology, MRI scanning has allowed breast cancer to be detectable at earlier stages than previously.

A MRI breast cancer screening is typically performed to further investigate a lesion or abnormality that has shown up after a mammography or physical exam. Another benefit of breast MRI technology is its ability to take accurate images of augmented breasts. Within the scanned image both the implant and surrounding breast tissue are clearly visible. This is an advantage over the mammogram, in which the implant often obscures abnormalities that may be an early indication of breast cancer. Furthermore breast MRI can be used to determine the stage in development the cancer is currently at and help doctors to identify what the best course of treatment may be.

As a further function, medical experts and researchers are looking into the use of MRI breast technology as a method of screening. It could be used to screen women of a younger age but who have known factors that put them at a higher risk of developing the disease such as a family history of breast cancer. Generally women under the age of 40 are not considered to require regular screening for breast cancer. The American Cancer Society however has recently made a recommendation that those women who are at a higher risk should consider an annual MRI test as well as annual mammograms. Being tested with both methods will increase the chances of catching the cancer at an early stage. The earlier it is caught, the better the recovery will be. MRI scans are a more sensitive technology than that used for mammography testing, which is why it may well detect something that pervious tests have missed. One disadvantage of the MRI breast technology is that at times it can prove to be over sensitive producing false positive results. All positive indication of breast cancer requires a breast biopsy as the follow up step. It is for this reason that not all women are recommended to undergo this form of testing.

MRI breast screening technology works through the use of powerful magnetic fields and radio waves, which scan the breast and recreate the images. The waves and magnetic fields are able to be adjusted and therefore can produce images from every viewpoint and orientation. In an x-ray based mammogram the breast and machine has to be repositioned each time a new view is required. The technology works through the radio signal, which is turned on and off. Different form of atoms in the body will reflect and echo these signals absorbing different amounts of energy. The machine records all of the echoes and reconstructs the imagery. Each MRI breast scan will typically take between 30 minutes to one hour.

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