Johnston-Willis Hospital - September 12, 2019

What is the Fast Breast MRI?

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women, with more than 40,000 women dying of the disease in 2016.1 Early detection is key to less invasive treatment options and improving overall survival rates.

Most women understand the benefits of having regular mammograms to help detect breast cancer in an early stage. For some populations, especially those with dense breast tissue, traditional and 3-D mammograms may miss certain cancers. The Fast Breast MRI is an additional screening test that may detect 4 to 5 times more breast cancers than traditional mammograms, especially those cancers that are most aggressive.

Who should get a Fast Breast MRI?

Fast Breast MRI, sometimes called Abbreviated Breast MRI (AB-MR), is performed in addition to regular mammograms. It is intended for women who want additional screening because they have dense breast tissue that makes it harder for mammograms to locate tumors. It is not meant to replace mammograms.

Young women and menopausal women on hormone therapy tend to have denser breast tissue. This can make a mammogram less effective for women in their 40s or younger. In addition, many women in this category do not qualify for insurance coverage for conventional breast MRI, based on their lifetime risk of breast cancer. Women with dense breast tissue, who do not qualify for a conventional breast MRI, may opt to have Fast Breast MRI.

While Fast Breast MRI can detect more breast cancers than a mammogram, it is not as comprehensive as a full breast MRI. Women who have BRCA1/2 genetic mutations and a higher lifetime risk of developing breast cancer should continue to have a comprehensive breast MRI, which is more sensitive and can detect a wider range of breast diseases.

How do I know if I have dense breasts?

It is estimated that approximately 50% of women have dense breasts, meaning that they have more milk glands, milk ducts, and supportive tissue than fatty tissue. The radiologist who reads your mammogram will determine if you have dense breast tissue. If so, you will be notified by your healthcare provider.

How long does a Fast Breast MRI exam take?

The Fast Breast MRI takes 10 to 15 minutes compared with an average of 45 minutes for a conventional breast MRI.

Who pays for a Fast Breast MRI?

The Fast Breast MRI is an additional screening that is paid for by the patient. It is available as a less expensive, out-of-pocket choice when a traditional breast MRI screening is not covered by the patient’s insurance. Because it is a relatively new test, Medicare and private insurance companies usually will not cover the cost of the Fast Breast MRI.

What should I expect during the Fast Breast MRI procedure?

Prior to the Fast Breast MRI procedure, there are no dietary restrictions. Once at the MRI facility, you will change into a gown and be given an IV injection of a special contrast into your arm. You cannot wear anything metallic in the MRI machine, so it may be best to leave all jewelry at home.

You will lie down on the MRI table. The MRI technician will leave the room, but you will be in contact with each other through a speaker. You will be asked to wear headphones that play music in order to reduce the noise of the MRI machine, and the technician will make sure you are comfortable. The table will then slide into the MRI tube, which can feel a bit claustrophobic. Some people find it helpful to close their eyes when entering the tube.

As the test begins, you will hear loud sounds around you. You can let the technician know if you are uncomfortable or feeling claustrophobic. After the series of images are taken of your breasts, the table will slide out from under the MRI. Your IV will be removed, and you may get dressed.

No radiation is used during the exam, the breasts are not compressed, and the results are not impacted by dense breast tissue. A radiologist who is specially-trained in Fast Breast MRI imaging will interpret your results and send them to your doctor.