Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses and a computer to create detailed images of the breast tissue and any abnormalities that may present themselves. Breast MRI does not use ionizing radiation (used in X-rays).
Breast MRI is a non-invasive technique that is used to examine our patients at high risk for breast cancer. Breast MRI can catch areas of concern earlier and in ways not possible with other breast imaging techniques, giving our experts the ability to best diagnose and treat breast cancers.
MRI is particularly good for detecting very small tumors and can be used to clarify the size and extent of the lesion after a suspicious area has been detected by mammogram or ultrasound. MRI can help determine whether the cancer has spread further in the breast or into the chest wall. MRI is also especially useful for detecting tumors in women with breast implants (which can interfere with mammogram rays), and in women with dense breast tissue. It is also particularly helpful in women with hereditary susceptibility to breast cancer, as it can be used in women at a younger age when such hereditary tumors often occur, better visualizes potential lesions in younger women who normally have denser tissue that impact mammography, and is safer in that it does not involve radiation.
During the painless breast MRI procedure, patients lie flat on their stomach for about 45 minutes with their breast inside a special platform to produce MRI images of the internal structure of their breast. Stanford performs most diagnostic breast MRIs at 3 Tesla, providing the clearest images possible.
Stanford also has a scanner to accommodate patients with larger body types. Our experts employ a wider 70 cm diameter scanner available by special request, compared to the 60 cm diameter of most conventional breast MRIs. Please make requests for this system at time of scheduling, as it is only available at our hospital facility.