Role of MRI in Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Management

21 Oct, 2022

This article is contributed by Dr. Diva Shah, Senior consultant – Radiology, HCG Cancer Centre, Ahmedabad.


Breast cancer is the commonest malignancy among women globally and 4th most common cancer in India. Its accurate diagnosis and timely treatment become paramount in its successful management. Mammography is considered as “Gold Standard” in diagnosis and screening of breast cancer, apart from mammography, ultrasound and MRI being offered as adjuvant modalities.


When is MRI Recommended for Breast Cancer Patients?

Although one of the highly effective diagnostic modalities, MRI is recommended in selected cases only. The doctor may recommend an MRI in women:

  • who are at high risk of developing breast cancer
  • who have dense breast tissue
  • who are found to have mutated BRCA genes

In these cases, MRI scans support the early detection of breast cancer and help in deciding treatment strategy. It also acts as screening tool for hereditary breast cancer patients.


What are the Advantages of MRI Scan in Breast Cancer Patients?

Throughout breast cancer treatment, MRI is recommended in various phases due to its sensitivity and precision. The following are some of the important indications of MRI scan:

  • Breast Cancer Screening for High-risk Individuals: MRI scan helps in the early detection of breast cancer in those who have a family history of this condition. If you are categorised as a high-risk individual, your doctor may suggest you opt for MRI scanning regularly, as it is both safe and effective in the early detection of breast cancer.


  • Determine the Extent of the Disease: Once breast cancer is diagnosed, an MRI scan may be recommended to determine the extent to which the disease has spread. MRI helps in finding out whether there are multiple tumours in the same breast and helps accurately in Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS). 


  • Determine the Precise Location of Tumour Before Breast Conservation Surgery: Before BCS, an MRI scan helps in precisely locating the tumour and determining its exact size. This helps in ensuring that the tumour is removed completely, with reduced damage to the surrounding healthy tissues.


  • Evaluation of Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy Response: In some cases of breast cancer, chemotherapy is administered before the surgery to shrink the tumour. After chemotherapy and before surgery, MRI breast helps in response evaluation of neoadjuvant chemotherapy.


  • Effective Follow-up after Lumpectomy: Both scarring due to lumpectomy and recurrent breast cancer have a similar appearance on mammography and ultrasound. If there is a change observed in the lumpectomy scar, an MRI could be recommended to check if breast cancer has recurred.


  • Evaluation of Breast Implants: Breast implants tend to rupture over time. If the patient is experiencing pain and other symptoms, an MRI scan is recommended to determine if the implants have ruptured. 


What Should You Do?

Although an MRI scan is highly effective in diagnosing breast cancer, it is still not considered a replacement for mammography, as microcalcifications are missed during an MRI scan.

If you see yourself as a high-risk individual and are thinking of getting an MRI scan for accurate results, you should consult the breast cancer specialist, who can help you with appropriate guidance on undergoing an MRI scan for breast cancer screening and diagnosis.


Breast Cancer Management at HCG Cancer Centre, Ahmedabad

At HCG Cancer Hospital, we have advanced MRI facilities and highly skilled team of cancer specialists who have a deep level of expertise in the diagnosis and management of breast cancers. 

Our team focuses on devising personalised treatment plans that are centred on the needs of the patient. This approach allows us to achieve superior clinical results while preserving the patients quality of life.


Bottom Note

MRI Breast is a powerful tool in breast cancer imaging diagnostic workup of breast cancer, especially in high-risk individuals. It is an adjuvant tool with mammography in screening, diagnosis and in follow up. Role of MRI will continue to evolve as technology improves and it will triage patients for better treatment options. Also, it is important to devise strategies to make this modality cost-effective so that it can help more women put themselves ahead of breast cancer.


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