This study was performed to evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of technetium-99m methoxyisobutylisonitrile (99mTc-MIBI) scintimammography (SMM) and contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in patients with breast masses, using the histological findings as the gold standard. Forty-five consecutive patients with a breast lesion, detected by self-examination, physical examination or screening mammography, underwent SMM and MRI. In 38 cases (84.5%), the histopathology was malignant; the breast cancers ranged from 3 to 100 mm in diameter (mean 22 mm). In the overall patient group, MRI showed a slightly higher sensitivity than SMM (92% vs 84%), but SMM showed a better specificity: 71% vs 42%. The accuracy was 82% and 84% for SMM and MRI respectively. To evaluate the influence of lesion size on the results, patients with lesions < or =20 mm and < or =15 mm were examined. In patients with lesions < or =20 mm, the sensitivity of SMM and MRI decreased to 64% and 82% respectively, while SMM again displayed considerably better specificity: 83% vs 50% for MRI. The accuracy of SMM and MRI was 64% and 82% respectively. In patients with lesions < or =15 mm, SMM again showed better specificity (75% vs 50%), while MRI displayed better sensitivity and accuracy (sensitivity, 81% vs 62%; accuracy, 75% vs 65%). In this study the specificity of SMM in patients with breast lesions was thus superior to that of MRI. The combination of SMM and MRI may be used in those patients with equivocal findings at mammography and ultrasound to reduce the number of unnecessary surgical biopsies.