Catching breast cancer early is one of the best ways to treat — and survive — the disease. And regular screenings are one of the best methods for this early detection.

Mammograms have long been the standard imaging method for breast cancer screening, but magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is gaining wide popularity for at-risk patients, and those with dense breast tissue.

On its own, mammography has been shown to generate a considerable reduction in deaths caused by breast cancer. Yet, Oregon State University experts point out that  20 to 30% of breast cancer tumors may be missed during these standard mammograms. Due to the enhanced detail achieved through MRIs, the American Cancer Society recommends both a mammogram and a breast MRI for women at a high risk for breast cancer.

What’s the Fast Breast MRI Difference?

The main difference between a fast (or abbreviated) breast MRI is that the tests take less time to perform and interpret, while the images remain accurate. A fast breast MRI can be completed in as little as one-third the time of a traditional breast MRI. Fast breast MRI have also been proven to find 200-300% more breast cancers compared to mammography alone.

“The specific advantage of abbreviated breast MRI,” a report in the British Institute of Radiology asserts,  “is that establishing absence of breast cancer—in other words: reviewing a negative MIP image—is a simple task that is done within time which is counted in seconds.”

This is because a fast MRI focuses on only the few most useful images for diagnosis, with little further follow up required. According to a 2017 study published in Academic Radiology, only 3.4% of patients needed full breast MRIs following the abbreviated version, to further capture sufficient images.

Who Are Fast Breast MRIs Best For?

Women at low risk for breast cancer may not be the best candidates. Especially because MRI testing can be costly and may not be covered by insurance companies if the patient is low risk.

Because breast MRIs can result in false positives and are costly, they are not recommended for women at a low risk. These false positives are due to the fact that an MRI can enhance lesions regardless of whether they’re cancerous or benign, without much differentiation in their characteristics. When an area of concern is identified, the patient must undergo further testing, including additional imaging and often a biopsy.

Women with an above average risk of breast cancer are often a good fit for this option. includes these characteristics as putting you at higher risk for breast cancer (among others):

  • Have a family history of breast cancer
  • Have a genetic disposition due to BRAC1 and BRAC2 gene mutations
  • Are 55 years of age or older
  • Have been diagnosed with other benign breast changes in the past
  • Began menstruating before the age of 12

The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool may help you determine where you fall in the risk category.

Additionally, women with dense breasts can use this exam in conjunction with a screening mammogram. Breast tissue is considered dense if there is a lot of fibrous or glandular tissue and not much fat. Fibrous and glandular tissue looks white on a mammogram, as does a possible tumor. This makes it difficult to tell the difference between a tumor and dense breast tissue on a standard mammogram.

The abbreviated breast MRI exam is helpful in these cases as it finds 200-300% more breast cancers than mammography alone in patients with the described risk factors.

Outpatient Imaging Culpeper is proud to offer several imaging options for breast cancer at all risk levels, including the fast breast MRI. Find out more about our women’s imaging options, schedule an appointment online or call us at (540) 321-3190 to find out if this study is right for you.