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MRI Now Being Used in Detecting Breast Cancer

Ashland, Ky. -- In an effort to continue to diagnose breast cancer in its earliest stages, King’s Daughters Medical Center (KDMC) is offering magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast. New American Cancer Society (ACS) guidelines recommend MRIs for women with high breast cancer risk.

Certain women with an especially high risk of developing breast cancer should get MRI scans along with their yearly mammogram, according to the ACS. MRI is a noninvasive and painless procedure that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to produce detailed images of the body’s organs and structures.

For women at average risk, ACS continues to recommend getting annual mammograms and breast exams by a physician, beginning at age 40. Screening MRIs are not recommended for women with a lifetime risk of breast cancer below 15 percent, according to the ACS. Most high-risk women should begin getting MRIs and mammograms at age 30 unless they and their doctor think it’s better to begin at a different age.

“MRI is not a replacement for a mammogram or ultrasound, but rather a supplemental tool for detecting and determining the stage of breast cancer and other breast abnormalities,” says Erik Fraley, M.D., KDMC radiologist. Combined, the tests give doctors a better chance of finding breast cancer earlier, when it is easier to treat and the chance of survival is the greatest, he said.

“One benefit is that MRI allows for imaging of both breasts simultaneously, increasing the possibility of discovering unexpected and previously undetected abnormalities in the opposite breast,” Dr. Fraley said. “Another advantage is the MRI can provide guidance for a breast biopsy and this is helpful when there is a lesion that is not visible by other modalities,” he said.

The new guideline recommends MRI screening in addition to mammograms for women who meet at least one of the following conditions:

  • they have BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation (a gene that is associated with the development of familial breast cancer when inherited in a defective state); a woman’s lifetime chance of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she inherits an altered BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Women with an inherited alteration in one of these genes have an increased risk of developing these cancers at a young age (before menopause), and often have multiple close family members with the disease. Although the structures of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are very different, their functions appear to be similar.
  • they have a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, even if they have yet to be tested themselves
  • their lifetime risk of breast cancer has been scored at 20-25 percent or greater; based on one of several accepted risk assessment tools that look at family history and other factors
  • they had radiation to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30
  • they have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome, or may have one of these syndromes based on a history in a first-degree relative

The Center for Advanced Imaging at KDMC is equipped with the Tri-State’s most advanced diagnostic technology and provides convenient outpatient imaging tests such as high-speed CT and MRI, and X-ray. The facility also houses the Breast Care Center, which provides digital mammography and ultrasound. The Center for Advanced Imaging features three MRI units:

  • A short-bore scanner, also called a traditional MRI, which involves the patient entering a hollow tube for a brief period.

  • An open-bore scanner that features a much wider opening that benefits larger patients and those who cannot tolerate confined spaces.

  • A revolutionary new extremity MRI that is perfectly suited for scanning legs and arms in a comfortable and quiet setting. The magnet’s unique design is very useful for orthopedic cases, including elbow and knee scans.

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