The ChristianaCare Breast Center at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute is the first in Delaware to offer Fast Breast MRI to women with dense breast tissue or intermediate lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.

Mammography is proven to saves lives, but it is less effective at finding cancer in women with dense breast tissue. Breast MRI finds more breast cancers than mammography or ultrasound. Until recently, though, MRI was only available as a screening option for women at high lifetime risk of breast cancer, such as those who have a strong family history or genetic mutation. Now a new, shortened version called Fast Breast MRI is a valuable option for many women who want additional breast cancer screening but do not qualify for a traditional breast MRI.

Jennifer Rowland, M.D., director of Breast Imaging at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute, answers your questions about Fast Breast MRI.

Should I have a Fast Breast MRI instead of a mammogram?

No. Fast Breast MRI is an additional screening option; it does not replace screening mammography. Most lives are saved by having a screening mammogram every year starting at age 40. Digital breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography) is the new and better mammogram for all women. It decreases the number of times a woman is called back for additional imaging and increases the number of breast cancers detected.

Who can get a Fast Breast MRI?

Fast Breast MRI is available to women who have dense breast tissue seen on a mammogram or who have a higher-than-average (intermediate) lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. A woman needs to have had a normal mammogram in the past year and not have any current breast concerns.

Women who have a history of breast cancer and dense breast tissue are eligible for Fast Breast MRI three years after lumpectomy.

How do I know if I have dense breast tissue?

Check your mammogram report, which is available on your ChristianaCare portal. (If you do not have a free portal account, sign up here.) Women with “heterogeneously” or “extremely” dense breast tissue seen on a mammogram are considered to have dense breast tissue.

Why does breast density matter?

Dense breast tissue can mask the presence of breast cancer on a mammogram. Having dense breast tissue means that there is increased fibroglandular tissue compared to fat. Both fibroglandular tissue and cancer appear white on a mammogram, which makes it more challenging to detect a white cancer in an increasingly white background of tissue. Having dense breast tissue also slightly increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

How do I know my lifetime risk of breast cancer?

ChristianaCare can calculate your breast cancer risk. Women with a lifetime risk of 15% to 20% are considered at intermediate lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and are eligible for Fast Breast MRI. If your lifetime risk is greater than 20% you are considered at high risk of breast cancer and an annual traditional MRI is recommended.

Is Fast Breast MRI covered by insurance?

Fast Breast MRI is a self-pay test that costs less than a traditional conventional breast MRI. A prescription from your doctor is needed.

 To learn more or to schedule a Fast Breast MRI, call ChristianaCare’s Breast Center at 302-623-4273.