MRI helps detect breast cancer in high-risk patients

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COLUMBUS, Nebraska: A screening tool at Columbus Community Hospital is helping detect breast cancer in women who are at a high risk for the disease.

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Shortly after adding a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine about a year ago, the hospital started offering breast MRI for patients.

An MRI machine has a cylinder-shaped opening where a patient lies while scans of a certain body part are taken. It’s commonly used to diagnose problems in knees, the spine, brain and other areas, and can also be used to detect abnormalities in breasts.

Medical doctor Anthony Krueger, a radiologist at CCH, said this advanced technology provides a more complete picture of the tissue for women who need additional screening.

Those who may be recommended for an MRI include people at high risk for breast cancer because of a genetic mutation or family history of the disease. An MRI can also be used to determine the size of a cancerous tumor and check for other irregularities.

However, it’s not the only precautionary measure recommended.

“An MRI doesn’t replace a mammogram or ultrasound. It is the next step,” Krueger said.
Unlike a mammogram, which compresses the breast and uses low-dose X-rays to get a picture of the tissue, an MRI uses magnets to produce scans of the body.

At CCH, the new MRI machine has a wider opening for patients and is also equipped with breast coils that help create the images. A patient undergoing a scan for cancer lies on a platform on their stomach, allowing the breasts to hang down into the coil openings. The platform then moves into the cylinder-shaped opening as the scan takes place. The process takes less than 30 minutes, Krueger said.

Krueger said the images are reviewed that day and decisions can be made about the next step in a patient’s treatment.

Guidelines released by the American Cancer Society recommend women get an MRI and mammogram every year if they: have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of 20-25 percent or greater; have a known BRCA1 or 2 gene mutation, or are untested for those mutations but have a first-degree relative with a BRCA1 or 2 mutation; had radiation therapy to the chest when they were between the ages of 10 and 30; have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome; or have first-degree relatives with one of these syndromes.

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