Published on November 17, 2020

Mother and daughter walking down street.

Breast MRI screening offers an option for women

Women with extremely dense breasts have a significantly higher risk for breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Nearly half of women age 40 or older are found to have dense breasts, and 10 percent of women are found to have extremely dense breasts.

Breast density refers to the relative amount of glandular, connective and fat tissue in the breast. Density can be determined by a mammogram, or X-ray of the breast. Extremely dense tissue can hide tumors, making it harder for a radiologist to detect cancer using only a mammogram.

When women over 50 have extremely dense breasts, the risk of having breast cancer within 10 years increases from one in 42 women to one in 21, according to radiologist Jennifer Bergin, MD.

She notes that patients who have dense breasts are notified when they receive their screening mammogram results. ProHealth patients who are found to have dense breast tissue are eligible for a breast MRI screening.

According to the American Cancer Society, breast MRI is the most sensitive test available to detect breast cancer. The society recommends that women at higher risk for breast cancer have an annual mammogram and breast MRI. A screening MRI is not recommended on its own. Instead, it may be recommended following an annual mammogram, if appropriate

Breast MRI allows radiologists to evaluate the tissue inside the breast. During the test, contrast dye is injected into a patient’s vein to clearly show breast tissue detail. The technology produces a thousand images, or slices, of the breast from different angles. A breast MRI screening takes only about 15 minutes. It does not involve flattening the breast or radiation.

ProHealth enrolled the largest number of patients in a 2016 to 2019 international research study about dense breast MRI. The study results, which were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found 2.5 times more cancers in women with dense breast tissue because of MRI screening.

ProHealth’s breast imaging program is designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology. ProHealth is fully accredited in mammography; breast MRI; breast ultrasound, including ultrasound-guided breast biopsy; and stereotactic breast biopsy.

Screening mammography is available in Brookfield, Mukwonago, New Berlin, Oconomowoc, Pewaukee and Waukesha. Immediate results are available for all tests conducted before 4 p.m. on weekdays. If breast MRI screening is recommended after mammography, it is available in Oconomowoc and Pewaukee.

Early detection of breast cancer offers more treatment options and better outcomes. That’s why ProHealth’s breast imaging team has taken extra steps to keep patients safe, and urges women to continue to schedule breast screenings during the pandemic.