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Breast MRI gives women new option

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Preparing for MRI

  • People who opt for breast MRI should tell their doctors about:
  • Any problems lying on their stomachs.
  • Any allergies.
  • Prescriptions or over-the-counter medications they take that could increase bleeding.
  • Whether they are afraid of tight spaces. Breast MRI involves lying down in a tight machine.

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Just two years ago, mammograms were the be-all and end-all for detecting and treating breast cancer at Columbus Regional Hospital.

Women who wanted breast magnetic resonance imaging — a noninvasive procedure that uses a magnetic field, radio frequencies and a computer to produce detailed pictures inside the breast — had to go to larger cities like Indianapolis.

Today, however, the test is available at Columbus Regional and the Breast Health Center.

Dr. Jay Jones, a radiologist at the health center, said the hospital already had MRI machines but spent thousands of dollars to modify them for breast imaging.

The process has pros and cons compared with traditional mammography.

Mammography, which uses X-rays instead of magnets, is less expensive, takes less time and is better at detecting cancer during routine screening, Jones said.

Breast MRI involves less breast compression and provides doctors with a better look at the extent of any cancer.

Mammography generates two-dimensional pictures for doctors to examine, while MRI shows all the cross sections, Jones said.

Unlike mammography, MRI involves injecting a contrasting agent that gives doctors an idea of a tumor’s size based on blood flow.

Benefits of the injections are obvious. But a big disadvantage compared to mammograms is that the process involves the injections at all.

Columbus Regional and the Breast Health Center use MRI most commonly to determine the extent of cancer before surgery, Jones said.

He said mammography is the better choice for screening. People can choose mammography without breast MRI, he said, but should never do MRI by itself.

The Breast Health Center has performed about 50 breast MRIs a year since the service began in 2009, Jones said. The center performs perhaps 8,000 mammography screenings per year.

“Mammography definitely is a lot more popular,” Jones said, “but it’s nice to be able to give our patients another option.”

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