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What Is a Breast MRI with Contrast?

The most common use of a breast MRI with contrast is to detect breast cancer.
A radiologist can interpret differences in breast tissue in an MRI with contrast.
An MRI machine.
Article Details
  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 10 December 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with contrast is a medical imaging technique that allows a doctor to take detailed images of soft tissue and bone. Before the scan, a contrast material is injected into the patient’s body. This causes any potential problems in the breast, such as a tumor, to stand out more clearly on the final image. A breast MRI with contrast is considered to be a very safe procedure, because it is rare for a patient to have an allergy to the contrast material.

The purpose of a breast MRI with contrast is to diagnose medical conditions that affect internal structures of the breast. An MRI machine uses a strong magnetic field, along with pulsing radio waves and a computer, to create a detailed image of the soft tissue and bone in the breast. This type of imaging is usually more effective and detailed than other forms of medical imaging, such as ultrasound or X-ray, but it also is more expensive.

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Unlike a regular MRI scan, a breast MRI with contrast requires a substance to be injected into the body. This is known as the contrast material, and it helps the doctor to see potential problems more clearly. A breast MRI with contrast isn’t needed in all cases, but it can provide extra information if a doctor feels the problem may be difficult to spot on a regular MRI. In most cases, the contrast material is administered via an intravenous line into the arm, along with a saline solution.

The most common use of a breast MRI with contrast is to detect breast cancer. Tumors in the breast usually have a strong blood supply, which means they show up clearly on MRI scans. A breast MRI with contrast is usually much more effective at detecting breast cancer than a mammography, although the high cost of an MRI often means a mammography is used first. An MRI scan of the breast also is sometimes used to detect ruptures in breast implants.

One of the main advantages of a breast MRI with contrast is that it’s a very safe procedure. The contrast material, which is usually a substance known as gadolinium, is injected into the body before a scan. It is very rare for this substance to cause any negative side effects, and the vast majority of people are not allergic to it. An MRI scan uses magnetic fields rather than high-energy electromagnetic waves, so there also is no radiation risk.

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