St. Francis Medical Center has expanded its services and is now offering patients the ability to have an MRI examination of the breasts. In addition to the mammogram program, the MRI scanner is also accredited by the American College of Radiology.
The MRI is not a screening tool. Patients need to have a mammogram first. If there is an abnormal result, the patient’s physician can then refer them for an MRI for further review before having a surgical biopsy.
Unlike using an X-ray machine, there is no ionizing radiation involved in an MRI, which uses magnetic and radio waves. If the MRI detects a problem, if appropriate, the MRI guidance may allow for a biopsy to be performed in a minimally invasive setting. If the biopsy comes back negative, there is likely no need for an invasive surgery procedure. The MRI may also be helpful when there are dense breasts on a mammogram, which are sometimes difficult to analyze.
What can patients expect?
A technologist will escort you into the MRI scanning room, where you’ll see a table and a large, donut-shaped device called a gantry. The technologist will have you lie on the padded table and make sure you are comfortable, you’ll be asked to lie very still during the scan and hold your breath for a short time to minimize any body movement. During the scan, you will hear a humming or buzzing noise. You will feel the table move while images are being taken at certain locations of your body. The technologist will monitor you during the entire exam through a window and will communicate with you through an intercom. The specific details of your upcoming examination will be explained fully by an MRI technologist or your physician.
For the breast MRI test, you will be positioned face down on a device – referred to as a “breast coil”— specifically designed to image the breast. The technologist will work with you to make sure that you’re comfortable but also positioned to optimally image the breast tissue. Depending on the type of breast coil used, the technologist might make adjustments to limit movement of the breast during imaging. However, unlike mammography, MRI does not use vigorous compression. The MRI takes about an hour and is coordinated by female technicians to make sure the patient is comfortable.
After your MRI exam, the radiologist will carefully analyze your MRI images and will send a report to your physician. Your physician will then discuss the results with you.
“It is critical to have the latest in technology to best serve our community,” stated Dr. Ethan Tarasov, Medical Director of Radiology at St. Francis Medical Center. He continued, “We are pleased to provide this MRI service as an alternative to invasive surgery to our patients.”
St. Francis Medical Center, a member of Catholic Health East/Trinity Inc., is an acute care teaching hospital recently ranked by Consumer Reports in the top five hospitals in NJ for safety and number one in Mercer County. Most noted for its Cardiac Surgery program and the first accredited Stroke Center in the county, St. Francis features regional services including the Heart Hospital, a Regional Cancer Center, a Sleep Disorder Center and an extensive Community Outreach Program. Partners in care include LIFE St. Francis (Living Independently For Elders) and LifeCare Physicians, PC, which includes Primary Care and Surgery throughout the region.