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Mammography and Breast MRIs

MRI vs Mammograms: How do These Tests Compare?

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Updated June 28, 2011

Mammogram and MRI Breast Images Comparison

Mammogram and MRI Breast Images Comparison

National Cancer Institute
Mammography and Breast MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) are diagnostic screening tests used for detecting breast cancer. Each technology has its strengths and weaknesses. Here's some comparisons:

Mammography

Mammogram advantages: Mammogram disadvantages:
  • does not image well around implants
  • compression of breast tissue (some discomfort)
  • difficult to image dense breast tissue
  • breast must be repositioned for different views

Breast MRI

Breast MRI advantages:
  • more sensitive than mammograms, ultrasounds, and clinical breast exams
  • useful for women at high risk for breast cancer
  • finds invasive breast cancer well
  • excellent at imaging around breast implants
  • accurately images implant ruptures and leaked material
  • no compression of breast tissue
  • effectively images dense breast tissue
  • helps evaluate inverted nipples
  • finds primary tumor if cancer has spread to lymph nodes in armpit
  • detects any remaining cancer after lumpectomy
  • helps determine whether lumpectomy or mastectomy will be best treatment
  • images both breasts simultaneously (useful for symmetrical comparison)
Breast MRI disadvantages:
  • not good at detecting DCIS
  • leads to many false-positive findings
  • additional follow-up examinations and biopsies
  • may not show all calcifications
  • may cause claustrophobia
  • requires use of injected contrast agent (Gadolinium)
  • more expensive than mammogram ($100 vs $1000)
  • not widely available
  • slower than mammogram (30 – 60 minutes)
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