What is a Breast MRI and How is it Done?

Unlike a mammogram, which uses x-rays to create images of the breast, breast MRI uses magnets and radio waves to produce detailed 3-dimensional images of the breast tissue. Before the test, you may need to have a contrast solution (dye) injected into your arm through an intravenous line. The solution will help any potentially cancerous breast tissue show up more clearly.

Cancers need to increase their blood supply in order to grow. On a breast MRI, the contrast tends to become more concentrated in areas of cancer growth, showing up as white areas on an otherwise dark background. This helps the radiologist determine which areas could possibly be cancerous. More tests may be needed after breast MRI to confirm whether or not any suspicious areas are actually cancer.

For the breast MRI, you lie on your stomach on a padded platform with cushioned openings for your breasts. Each opening is surrounded by a breast coil, which is a signal receiver that works with the MRI unit to create the images. The platform then slides into the center of the tube-shaped MRI machine. You won’t feel the magnetic field and radio waves around you, but you will hear a loud thumping sound. You will need to be very still during the test, which takes around 30 to 45 minutes.

Because the technology uses strong magnets, it is essential that you remove anything metal — jewelry, snaps, belts, earrings, zippers, etc. — before the test. The technologist also will ask you if you have any metal implanted in your body, such as a pacemaker or artificial joint.

Where to have breast MRI?

It’s important to have breast MRI done at a facility with:

  • MRI equipment designed specifically for imaging the breasts. Not all imaging centers have this; instead, many have MRIs used for scanning the head, chest, or abdomen.
  • The ability to perform MRI-guided breast biopsy. If the breast MRI reveals an abnormality, you’ll want to have an MRI-guided breast biopsy (a procedure to remove any suspicious tissue for examination) right away. Otherwise, you’ll need to have a breast MRI again at another facility that offers an immediate MRI-guided breast biopsy.

See the MRI at The Charleston Breast Center Below


Who’s on Your Team?

breast surgeonsGO TEAM! Lots of phrases are used to describe a team concept. Some people call it “Multidisciplinary Breast Team, “Breast Cancer Team Conference,” “Breast Health Team,” “Cancer Clinic Team,” or, the one I like the LEAST, “Tumor Board” (ick!).

These teams are the groups of doctors, P.A.s, nurses, and therapists—basically everyone who would be involved in treating a patient with a breast cancer diagnosis—who meet to coordinate the best care for you. Yes, YOU and your unique self! They talk about your individual case, bounce ideas and treatment plans off of one another, and come to a consensus about what treatment would be best at beating your type of breast cancer. All of the members of this team may not necessarily be the providers treating you, which is a good thing for a wide perspective of opinions, but may include breast radiologist, general surgeon, breast surgeon, surgical oncologist, plastic surgeon, pathologist, medical oncologist, oncology nurse, radiation oncologist, social worker, financial aid counselor, and an oncology psychiatrist.

If you are in a community that does not have a team or you would like to be presented to a team prior to beginning treatment, just ask that one be found for you. Most hospitals have one and some exist that are composed of a group of providers in the community with a particular interest in breast cancer and breast health.

What is A Breast Cancer Navigator?

A breast cancer navigator is a term that hopefully most of us don’t know and won’t learn in our lives. But simply stated, this person, usually an oncology nurse, is there to help you from the time of your breast cancer diagnosis through the treatment maze to the end of your breast cancer journey. Consider her the person who reads the map while you are trying to drive the car, or perhaps if we keep in line with navigator, she sits on the stern of the boat and tells you when and how to row.

We like to think of her as more of a concierge at a really cool classy hotel (no tips required!!). She’s right there at check-in if you need her. But when you want to leave the hotel, she’s the go-to girl. She’s informative and has all the great information on the BEST places to go in town. Sometimes, she might even give you a little side information on the places that people have given her rave reviews about.

The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction now has a new breast cancer navigator on board at our favorite “hotel,” the new East Cooper Regional Medical Center. We’re confident that once gets the hang of the lowcountry, she’ll be the best concierge in town! You’ll be able to call her for the best rates during your stay, ask her about what kind of post-op care you might need, and what types of support services are available during your time in Charleston. She’ll always be available to our clients.