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Evidence for Utilizing Magnetic Resonance Imaging to Detect Breast Cancer in the Axilla and Contralateral Breast

Kevin D. Evans, PhD, RT(R)(M)(BD), RDMS, RVS, FSDMS

     *Director/Assistant Professor, Radiologic Sciences and Therapy Division, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.
    Address correspondence to: Kevin D. Evans, PhD, RT(R)(M)(BD), RDMS,RVS, FSDMS, Director/Assistant Professor, Radiologic Sciences and Therapy Division, The Ohio State University, 453 West 10th Avenue, 340 A. Atwell Hall, Columbus, OH 43210. E-mail: Kevin.Evans@osumc.edu.


Cancer of the breast is the leading cancer that affects women in the US population, and has consequently been the subject of widespread research and educational campaigns to improve the rates of early detection and successful treatment. Breast cancer incidence in the United States continues to rise at a steady rate, but aggressive research has improved the ability of clinicians to predict breast tumor behavior based on the size of the tumor. Smaller tumors are less likely to metastasize to the lymph nodes, and it is now recommended that women receive regular screening mammograms and clinical breast examinations to identify tumors at an early stage and improve the probability of successful treatment. Furthermore, the American Cancer Society now endorses complimentary imaging of the breast, including a strong endorsement of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to detect lymph node involvement and contralateral disease extension. Those at an increased risk of breast cancer due to genetic predisposition, family history, or medical history may especially benefit from the use of MRI of the breast to detect early disease. Although the widespread utilization of MRI of the breast is challenged by concerns of costs, limited equipment availability, and inherent technical limitations, the consideration of MRI in patients with a greater degree of risk factors may improve early disease detection and successful treatment in these individuals. A literature review of MRI of the breast is provided to offer perspective on breast MRI in clinical practice and its utility in detecting nodal involvement and contralateral disease extension.

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