How is a breast MRI different from a regular mammogram?

Dr. Ryan Polselli

October 6, 2022

There are now more options than ever for breast cancer screenings. So, how do you know which one is right for you? In this blog post, we’ll compare two of the most popular breast cancer screening methods: mammograms and breast MRIs.

Mammograms are the most common type of breast cancer screening, and they use low-dose X-rays to detect abnormalities in the breast tissue. Breast MRIs, on the other hand, use magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the breast tissue. So, what are the key differences between these two methods? Let’s take a closer look.

Differences in Purpose

The biggest difference between mammograms and breast MRIs is their purpose. According to Dr. Ryan Polselli , a leading expert in the field of 3D breast imaging, Mammograms are primarily used to screen for breast cancer. In contrast, breast MRIs are primarily used to diagnose breast cancer. This means that if you have no symptoms or signs of breast cancer, a mammogram is usually the best option. However, if you have symptoms or signs of breast cancer (e.g., a lump or mass), a breast MRI may be ordered to look closely at suspicious areas.

Differences in Preparation

Another key difference between these two procedures is preparation. For a mammogram, you will need to remove all clothing and jewelry from the waist up and wear a gown during the exam. You will also need to avoid applying lotion, powder, or deodorant to your chest on the exam day.

For a breast MRI, you will need to remove all clothing and jewelry from the waist up and wear a gown during the exam. You may also be asked to remove glasses, hearing aids, or any metal objects that could interfere with the magnetic field.


Differences in Procedure

The actual procedure for each exam is also slightly different. For a mammogram, you will stand in front of an X-ray machine and place your breasts, one at a time, on a firm surface. The X-ray technician will then gently compress your breasts with a paddle in order to get clear images. The compression may be uncomfortable but it is not usually painful. The entire procedure takes about 10 minutes.

For a breast MRI, you will lie face down on an examination table with your breasts positioned in special coils that act as magnets (this is why it’s important to remove any metal objects before the exam). The table will then slide into the MRI machine, where pictures will be taken from multiple angles. The entire procedure takes about 30 minutes.

Final Thoughts

Both mammograms and breast MRIs are important tools in the fight against breast cancer. As women, it’s important that we’re aware of all of our options so that we can make informed decisions about our health care. Talk to your doctor about which screening method is right for you based on your personal risk factors for developing breast cancer.