October 4, 2013

One of the most important ways to detect breast cancer early is to follow recommendations for both self-exams and screenings. The current American Cancer Society recommendations for breast cancer screenings are: breast self-exams starting in the 20s; clinical breast exams about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women over 40; and yearly mammograms starting at age 40. Women should also be aware of how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to their health care provider.

While mammography remains the gold standard for screening, a breast MRI may be indicated for some women who may be at higher risk for breast cancer or to further evaluate an abnormality found during a mammogram or ultrasound. Women who may need a breast MRI include:

• Those with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation

• Those with a first-degree relative who has the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation

• Women with a 20 to 25 percent higher risk of breast cancer as determined by several risk factors or family history

• Women who have had a breast augmentation

• Women who have had a lumpectomy (to evaluate for residual disease)

• Women who are undergoing breast conserving surgery

Breast MRI can also detect the size and location of breast cancer lesions, help to find breast cancer cells in lymph nodes and detect breast cancer recurrence.

"The breast MRI examination can detect abnormalities that mammography and ultrasound do not have the capabilities to do," said Christine Oskin, corporate director of medical imaging. "MRI screening does a better job in finding abnormalities in dense breast tissue and those closer to the rib cage than breast screening by mammography and ultrasound. This advantage can also lead to the option of stereotactic breast biopsy guided by MRI."

CAMC is the only hospital in the Charleston area to provide breast MRI, and offers the exams at Women and Children's Hospital and CAMC Imaging Center – Kanawha City. Women and Children's Hospital also has a large-bore MRI that can accommodate claustrophobic patients and patients of larger size. If patients need further evaluation or treatment, they can be referred to The Breast Center, also located at Women and Children's.

For more information about imaging procedures and breast health, visit camc.org/imaging.

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