MR imaging of the breast for the detection, diagnosis, and staging of breast cancer

Radiology. 2001 Jul;220(1):13-30. doi: 10.1148/radiology.220.1.r01jl3113.


With the introduction of contrast agents, advances in surface coil technology, and development of new imaging protocols, contrast agent-enhanced magnetic resonance (MR) imaging has emerged as a promising modality for detection, diagnosis, and staging of breast cancer. The reported sensitivity of MR imaging for the visualization of invasive cancer has approached 100%. There are many examples in the literature of MR imaging--demonstrated mammographically, sonographically, and clinically occult breast cancer. Often, breast cancer detected on MR images has resulted in a change in patient care. Despite these results, there are many unresolved issues, including no defined standard technique for contrast-enhanced breast MR imaging, no standard interpretation criteria for evaluating such studies, no consensus on what constitutes clinically important enhancement, and no clearly defined clinical indications for the use of MR imaging. Furthermore, this technology remains costly, and issues of cost-effectiveness and cost competition from percutaneous biopsy have yet to be fully addressed. These factors along with the lack of commercially available MR imaging--guided localization and biopsy systems have slowed the transfer of this imaging technology from research centers to clinical breast imaging practices. Technical requirements, potential clinical applications, and potential pitfalls and limitations of contrast-enhanced MR imaging as a method to help detect, diagnose, and stage breast cancer will be described.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Biopsy, Needle / methods*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Mammography / methods
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Neoplasm Staging / methods
  • Pennsylvania
  • Sensitivity and Specificity