Christiana Care Breast Centerat the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute

Breast MRI

The Christiana Care Breast Center features the region’s only dedicated breast MRI, plus a team of experienced radiologists with the special expertise needed to interpret these images quickly and accurately.

Using strong magnets and radio waves instead of X-rays, MRI technology produces a highly detailed image of the breast. An MRI of the breast can be useful for many reasons, including:

  • To check for extent of disease, or to check for disease in the opposite breast of a woman who is newly diagnosed with cancer.
  • For women who have a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genetic mutation, which causes a high risk of developing breast cancer.
  • For women who have a first-degree relative with a BRCA 1 or 2 mutation and are untested.
  • For women who have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of 20-25 percent or more, using standard risk-assessment models.
  • For women who have received radiation treatment to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30 (such as for Hodgkin’s disease).
  • For women who carry or have a first-degree relative who carries a genetic mutation in the TP53 or PTEN genes (Li-Fraumeni syndrome and Cowden and Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndromes).
  • To check implant integrity.

Although MRI is more sensitive in detecting aggressive or invasive cancer than mammography, MRI also has a higher false-positive rate, which results in more biopsies. (A false positive is when a test finds something that turns out to not be cancer.) MRI does not replace mammography for routine screening for breast cancer. Mammography remains the gold standard.

Technology specially designed for breast MRI

The GE Signa Vibrant 1.5T MRI scanner includes a specially designed breast MR patient table for optimal imaging and excellent access for intervention (or biopsy). The Vibrant technology allows for faster scan times-generally 15 to 20 minutes for a routine breast MRI or 30 to 40 minutes for an MRI to check implant integrity. The table is comfortable and padded, designed to accommodate women of all shapes and sizes.

Preparing for your breast MRI

Your safety is our highest priority. Before your MRI, please tell us if you have any metallic objects or devices inside your body, because these may interfere with the MRI’s magnetic field. Please tell us if you have any of the following:

  • Cardiac pacemaker.
  • Any internal electronic device.
  • Artificial heart valve or stents.
  • Medical surgical clips or aneurysm clips.
  • Intrauterine device (IUD).
  • Hearing aid or implants.
  • Shunts.
  • Neurostimulators.
  • Artificial joints or metal rods.
  • Embedded shrapnel or metal fragments.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Preparing for your MRI

If you are diabetic or over 60, it is necessary for your physician to order a kidney-function test. The contrast used in the MRI is relatively safe, and allergic reactions are rare.

If you are claustrophobic, ask your doctor to order a medicine for you that will help reduce anxiety.

Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing with no drawstring or metal grommets. You may find it helpful to bring pajama bottoms.

Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated before your IV start.

For your enjoyment, bring your Apple iPod (other MP3 players usually do not work on our system) or your favorite music CD.

What to expect during your MRI

When you arrive at the Breast Center, you will be asked to fill out a detailed history and safety screening form. You will be instructed to change into a gown and remove all jewelry (including body jewelry), watches, credit cards, hearing aids, hairpins, safety pins and metal zippers from your person. The technologist will review the safety form with you and go over your breast history in detail.

An IV will be placed in either arm or your hand. This is for the contrast agent (gadolinium), which improves the MRI’s ability to find breast cancers.

You will enter the MRI suite (which is a dedicated system designed for breast patients only) and be positioned on the MRI breast table. You will be asked to open your gown, lie face down with your head positioned on a head rest with your arms over your head. The table is similar to a massage table. Your privacy and comfort is our priority.

Your breasts will be positioned in the breast coils with gentle compression.

The machine makes loud buzzing and clicking noises, which some people find disturbing. You will be given a headset for music.

You will be advanced into the magnet, face down, feet first. There is a fan and lighting inside for comfort. You will be given an “emergency” squeeze ball, and the technologists will communicate with you as the study progresses.

The scans will be six in number ranging from 30 seconds to 3.5 minutes each. You may feel small table movements. The contrast is given toward the end of the exam. It is important to remain still, because excessive movement may result in an exam that is sub-optimal and may need to be repeated.

Christiana Care Breast Center
Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute, Suite 1400 (West Entrance)
4701 Ogletown-Stanton Road, Newark, DE 19713 directions
302-623-4200