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Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Elkhart General Hospital was the first in Elkhart County to offer MRI Breast exams. At the present time, we are the only area hospital providing MRI Needle Localizations and MRI Core Biopsies.

A breast MRI is a high-resolution way of visualizing the breast without radiation. It is useful when doctors suspect there is a tumor that is not showing up during a physical exam or mammography. It may also be used to determine the size and extent of a known tumor. Breast MRI can be used in addition to mammography or ultrasound.

Doctors use MRI when they suspect the presence of an "occult" breast cancer. This is when a woman has a swollen underarm lymph node that is found, by aspiration or biopsy, to contain cancer cells, yet no sign of cancer appears on a breast exam and mammogram. In most such patients, breast MRI can identify the site of the cancer. MRI can also be used to examine the chest wall or pectoral muscles for suspected cancer, as these areas are hard to reach with mammography.

Doctors also use breast MRI to determine the size and extent of a known tumor in a breast cancer patient. This is especially useful if the cancer is difficult to measure by mammography, as can be the case with an infiltrating lobular cancer. If you are taking anticancer drugs to shrink a tumor before surgery, a process called neoadjuvant therapy, MRI can help reveal whether the tumor is responding to the medication. In addition, MRI may be used to check for recurrences after lumpectomy. MRI may be used in the diagnosis of breast implant rupture.

Breast MRI requires special equipment designed specifically for breasts. To have an MRI, you lie very still within a large machine, face down, with your breasts suspended into a cushioned, bra-like holder. Your face and head are near the open ends of the magnet chamber. During the procedure, a dye is injected into your arm. Short bursts of high-frequency waves stimulate hydrogen atoms in cells to emit signals that are collected and turned into an image by a computer. The image is made in 5-10 sequences, each of which is 3-5 minutes long, with breaks in between. The entire examination takes about 45 minutes.

MRI is expensive and somewhat technically difficult. It requires a specialized machine and radiologists experienced in its use. Nevertheless, major medical centers are finding that breast MRI, used in conjunction with mammography and ultrasound, can be a powerful tool for some patients.

To Learn More

For more information on the Breast Care Center, please call 574-523-7842. To schedule an appointment, please call 574-523-3444.