Is the New Abbreviated Magnetic Resonance Imaging for Breast Cancer Screening Right for You?

BreastCancer 1020

October 2020 Issue
by Rochelle Ringer, MD

Do you have dense breast tissue? 
Do you have distant but not close family history of breast cancer?  New Abbreviated Breast MRI (AB-MR) may be for you.

What is Breast MRI? Breast MRI is a study done in addition to a mammogram to find breast cancer that a mammogram doesn’t show. We know that mammograms are good, but not perfect, and can miss up to 15 percent of breast cancers. A MRI can find the cancers that mammograms sometimes miss. Women receive IV dye and go in and out of the MRI machine.  The study takes about 45 minutes. Standard breast MRI has been around for many years, but has not been available to most women. Insurance typically only covers the cost of standard breast MRI for women who have breast cancer, or are at very high risk to develop breast cancer.  Without insurance coverage, the cost of a standard breast MRI is costly, and in most cases unaffordable, providing limited availability to most women. Breast MRI is done in addition to your annual mammogram.

How is Abbreviated Breast MRI (AB-MR) different than standard Breast MRI?
  AB-MR only takes 10 minutes, so it’s much faster than standard breast MRI. Because it’s faster, it can be lower cost. AB-MR is recommended for women who have dense breast tissue on a mammogram.
It’s also recommended for women who have a slightly increased risk for breast cancer.  

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if I have dense breast tissue?  You should get a letter after your mammogram stating you have dense breast tissue. You could also ask your primary care physician or gynecologist to review your last mammogram report to see if you have dense breast tissue.

I have a family history of breast cancer, should I have the standard MRI or AB-MR?  Every woman who has a mammogram at Hilton Head Hospital, Bluffton Medical Campus or Coastal Carolina Hospital has a breast cancer risk assessment done, and that information is given to the provider who ordered your mammogram. If your risk is 20 percent or higher, then standard MRI should be considered, as well as seeing a breast surgeon.  If that risk is 15-20 percent, then you’re a good candidate for AB-MR, even if you don’t have dense breast tissue.

Does MRI have radiation?  No. For women who are worried about radiation exposure, MRI does not expose you to radiation.

Will this really benefit me? AB-MR has been shown to potentially detect 4 to 5 times more cancers than mammograms alone (mammography detects 4-5 per 1,000 screened, whereas MRI has been shown to detect 15-16 per 1,000 screened).

Will this replace my yearly mammogram?  No. Mammogram is still the standard of care for all women.

How often should I get an AB-MRI? Every other year.

Will my insurance cover the cost of an AB-MR?  Insurance coverage of breast MRI may vary. Check with your insurance provider about coverage before your screening.  

What is the cost of AB-MR? Hilton Head Regional Healthcare is now offering a cash pay price of $460.00, if insurance does not cover the screening.

Who can’t/shouldn’t get an MRI? If you have metal in your body, then you can’t have a MRI.  Also, since IV dye is given, if you have kidney disease, then a MRI can’t be done. The MRI machine is narrow, so some people who are claustrophobic have a difficult time with the test.

Where can I get an AB-MR? It is being offered at the Bluffton Medical Campus and Coastal Carolina Hospital.

How can I get an AB-MR?  Contact your gynecologist or primary care physician.  

Should I have a more extensive breast cancer risk assessment? Yes, if you have a family history of breast cancer. Your physician should do an exam, calculate your risk for breast cancer, talk to you about ways to lower your breast cancer risk and assess if additional imaging or testing should be performed. If this is you, call the Breast Health Center at (843) 836-1600 to set up an appointment.

Hilton Head Regional Healthcare is pleased to offer Abbreviated Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (AB-MR) to the Lowcountry community.

BreastCancer 1020 2Rochelle "Shelly" Ringer, MD is a board-certified and fellowship-trained breast surgeon in the Lowcountry dedicated to caring for patients with breast disease. Dr. Ringer earned her medical degree from the Indiana University School of Medicine and completed a residency in general surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital, in Cincinnati, OH. She went on to complete a breast surgical oncology fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Dr. Ringer is also an Associate Clinical Professor of Surgical Oncology at the Medical University of South Carolina and a member of the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center Comprehensive Breast Care Tea. She is a member of the American Society of Breast Surgeons.

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