Abbreviated Breast MRI
UF Health Imaging Center – Wildlight helps to detect breast cancer in women with dense breasts.
Women with dense breasts have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Although mammograms help in the detection of the early signs of breast cancer, it may be difficult to see small lesions or cancer in women with dense breasts.
UF Health Imaging Center – Wildlight has introduced a new screening technology unique to Northeast Florida. The abbreviated breast MRI procedure is a fast and effective supplemental screening tool in addition to 3D mammograms for the early detection of breast cancer in women with dense breasts and for women with a family history of breast cancer.
Abbreviated breast MRI, also referred to as AB-MRI, or fast breast MRI, is a radiation-free, shortened version of a breast MRI that screens for breast abnormalities, including cancers, not seen on a mammogram. AB-MRI is a quick procedure, only taking 15 minutes to complete.
Smita Sharma, MD, chief of the division of women’s imaging at UF Health Jacksonville, and Haley Letter, MD, assistant professor and program director of the breast imaging and intervention fellowship at the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville, have collaborated with the UF Health Women’s Imaging team to make this screening available to patients.
“AB-MRI is shown to detect breast cancers that may be missed on 2D and 3D mammograms due to the masking effect of dense breast tissue. It’s demonstrated to be the most sensitive tool for finding cancer in women with dense breasts,” Letter said.
The science of breast tissue
Breasts consist of fatty, fibrous and glandular tissues, including lobules, as well as milk ducts and glands. Breast density refers to the amount of fibrous and glandular tissues. When viewed on a mammogram, dense breasts have more glandular and supportive tissues and less fatty tissues. While fatty tissues appear dark and transparent, dense tissues, as well as benign and cancerous masses, appear solid and white on a mammogram.
Nearly 50% of women ages 40 and older are found to have dense breasts during the preventive screening process. Although it is normal, heredity and other factors may affect breast density.
“While advanced aging, having children and taking tamoxifen hormonal therapy can reduce breast density, low body mass index and postmenopausal hormone therapy can be associated with higher breast density,” Sharma said.
Density isn’t felt or seen through breast self-exams or clinical exams, but is determined through mammography, with radiologists examining breast images for breast density.
Breast density screening process
Breast density is measured at four levels:
- Almost entirely fatty
- Scattered areas of fibroglandular tissue
- Heterogeneously dense
- Extremely dense
After a routine mammogram, the patient and referring health care provider receive a letter with results stating if dense breast tissue is present and identification of breast density category. The health care provider and patient may discuss mammography results and personal breast cancer risk to determine if a supplemental screening is recommended.
Women referred for an AB-MRI are evaluated to ensure their safety. Before the exam begins, a technologist places an IV with contrast dye in the patient’s arm to enhance visibility of blood vessels and breast tissues. The patient lies face down on the MRI table, with the breast placed without compression into cushioned openings in the table.
AB-MRI is currently offered as a self-pay service, although expenses may be covered with flexible spending and health savings accounts.
Visit Wildight.UFHealthJax.org to learn more about available women’s imaging services and to schedule your routine 3D mammogram. Talk to your health care provider about your results and for a referral for an AB-MRI.