Frequently Asked Questions: Breast MRI Screening

Frequently Asked Questions: Breast MRI Screening

What is breast density?

A woman’s breast has three different types of tissue: fibrous, glandular, and fatty tissue. Breast density compares the amounts of fibrous and glandular tissue to the amount of fatty tissue. Breast density is detected by mammograms, and about half of women over 40 years old have dense breasts, and about 1 in 10 women have extremely dense breasts. Breast density can hide tumors in the breast.

Why do I need MRI screening in addition to my mammogram? 

Women with dense breasts have 3 to 5 times greater risk of developing breast cancer as compared to women without dense breasts. A mammogram helps to detect cancer early, but it is not a perfect test. Dense tissue can hide breast cancers on mammograms, and recent studies have found that screening with Magnetic Resonance Imagining (MRI) in addition to regular mammography can improve detection of small, invasive cancers that may not be detected by mammography alone. This is important because detecting breast cancer early means less treatment, as well as fewer or no breast cancer-related surgeries and improved survival. 

What is a breast MRI? What happens during a breast MRI? 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is a type of scan that creates images using a powerful magnet and radio waves. An injection of contrast is needed for most breast MR imaging. You’ll receive an IV in your arm before the study begins. An injection of contrast agent will be given via the IV throughout the study. During a breast MRI, you will lay face down on a table that moves through a tube-shaped structure where images of the breasts are created. There is no radiation or X-ray exposure during an MRI. Our expert breast imaging radiologists will then interpret the study, and they will send the results to you and your doctor. 

Does insurance cover this additional screening? 

In January 2022, Pennsylvania passed a law that requires MRI screening to be covered by insurance for women with extremely dense breasts. However, be mindful that you might be responsible for certain copay or coinsurance charges based on your specific insurance plan. 

How do I schedule a breast MRI screening? 

In order to schedule your supplemental breast MRI screening, contact your primary care or OB/GYN provider and ask them to order a breast MRI screening. 

Should I be concerned about false positives?

MRI, like other imaging tests, can result in false positives, which might require additional imaging and a biopsy to confirm if there is cancer.

What costs may I be responsible for when getting a breast MRI screening?

It’s important to note that even though full MRI screening is covered by insurance under Pennsylvania law for patients with extremely dense breasts, you might still be responsible for some costs depending on your specific insurance plan. If you are covered under Medicare, the cost for getting a breast MRI screening is approximately $113 out-of-pocket, and Medicaid patients also have reduced costs, but these might vary. Costs for patients under a private insurance plan can vary greatly, especially if your plan has a high deductible. It’s important that you check with your insurance plan before deciding to undergo the breast MRI screening. You can check an estimate for your specific costs at 267-414-2710.

What if I have more questions about breast MRI screening? 

Your primary care provider can help you decide whether to undergo breast MRI screening based on your breast density level and other risk factors. You can also call the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine at (215) 746-6788 if you need more information. 

To learn more about fast breast MRI screening, please see the downloadable brochure below: