A Closer Look at Abbreviated Breast MRI (AB-MRI)

A Closer Look at Abbreviated Breast MRI (AB-MRI)

Digital mammography is the gold standard for breast cancer screening—yet its ability to detect cancer in dense breasts is significantly lower than in breasts comprised of mostly fatty tissue.

“Having dense breast tissue increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. It can also make cancers difficult to detect on mammography, because both cancer and dense tissue appear white on a mammogram,” said Susan Ervine, MD, Medical Director, Holland Hospital Breast Care. “That’s why supplemental tests for breast cancer screening, such as 3D mammography (tomosynthesis) or MRI, may sometimes be advised.”

While breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is the most sensitive test available for breast cancer screening, it has largely been restricted to women at high risk.

So if you have dense breast tissue or simply desire supplemental screening, what should you do? Dr. Ervine answers some questions about another option to consider called abbreviated breast MRI (or AB-MRI).

How do I know if I have dense breasts?

Breast density is visible during your mammogram and determined by the radiologist who reads
it. Breasts are made of fat and glandular tissue. The more glandular tissue, the denser the breasts appear on the mammogram. If your breast tissue is described as “heterogeneously dense” or “extremely dense” in your mammogram report, you have dense breasts.

Do I have to have dense breast tissue in order to qualify for AB-MRI?

No.

Who is eligible for an AB-MRI?

Talk with your health care provider if you think abbreviated breast MRI might be right for you. If you’ve had a negative mammogram within the last 11 months and do not qualify for standard breast MRI, you may qualify for AB-MRI.

Women who have potential breast cancer symptoms (e.g., a lump or nipple discharge) should not schedule an AB-MRI but should consult their doctor about additional testing.

What can you expect during the exam?

You will wear a gown and lie facedown in the breast MRI scanner. The technologist will place an IV in your arm, and you will be positioned in the MRI. Scans will be done before and after contrast is given through the IV. There is no radiation exposure and no breast compression associated with the test, which takes only about 10 minutes.

What happens after the exam?

You may resume your normal activities. A radiologist specializing in breast imaging will review your images and issue a report to your doctor, who will then discuss the results with you.

Is AB-MRI covered by insurance?

Some insurers might cover the cost, but most do not. Holland Hospital offers a flat-fee for this abbreviated screening option at a self-pay cost that is significantly less than a traditional MRI. There is no other co-pay or deductible. For cost information, call Patient Financial Services at (616) 394-3122.

“Each year more than 40,000 women die of breast cancer, highlighting that under-diagnosis is still a big issue,” Dr. Ervine said. “The AB-MRI scan is an additional tool that can help improve the odds of finding cancer early, when it’s more treatable.”

Nationally recognized as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence and accredited by the American College of Radiology, Holland Hospital offers access to the latest in breast health screening and diagnostic imaging, including AB-MRI. We offer mammography screening at three convenient area locations. Call (616) 355-3865 for an appointment.

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  • Susan Ervine, MD

    Susan Ervine, MD

    Dr. Susan Ervine is a radiologist who specializes in breast imaging and intervention. She is the Director of Breast Imaging and the Co-Director of Comprehensive Breast Services at Holland Hospital. Dr. Ervine was instrumental in helping Holland Hospital achieve the Breast Imaging Center of Excellence designation, and accreditation by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. 

    Dr. Ervine lives in Holland with her husband and three children. She enjoy tennis, water sports, downhill skiing and quality time with family.   Susan Ervine, MD

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