Installing Delaware's first dedicated breast MRI
In March 2009, as part of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center's expansion, Delaware's first dedicated breast MRI system was installed.
As you might expect, such a massive, high-tech piece of equipment doesn't fit through a doorway. This was an exciting step in the construction project, which will be completed later this spring, and an exciting advance in patient care at Christiana Care's Breast Center.
“This has brought breast imaging into the high-tech realm,” says Director of Breast Imaging Jacqueline Napoletano, M.D. “If a patient has breast cancer, MRI will pick it up more than 95 percent of the time.”
The test is not a substitute for screening or diagnostic mammography. Rather, breast MRI—that is, magnetic resonance imaging—supplements these standard imaging tools.
For women diagnosed with breast cancer, MRI can help to discern the size, shape and extent of the tumor, as well as enhance detection in the contralateral, or opposite, breast.
“MRI can see through the density of the breast,” Dr. Napoletano says. “Unlike mammogram, there’s very little compression involved, just enough to keep the breast steady.”
Here’s how it works: The patient receives an IV to allow introduction of gadolinium, a contrast agent. She lies face down on a special table with an opening for the breasts and a coil that transmits radio frequency signals. The table is slid into a cylinder where a powerful magnetic field helps to produce images.
“Because breast cancers have a rich blood supply, tumors light up on MRI,” Dr. Napoletano says.
Christiana Care has offered breast MRI since 2002. But the new machine will provide better imaging as well as enhance patient comfort because it is designed specifically for breast testing.
The American Cancer Society recommends MRI for women who test positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene or who have a 20-25 percent or greater risk of developing breast cancer due to a strong family history of the disease. Women who were treated with chest radiation for Hodgkin’s disease between the ages of 10 and 30 also should have MRI.
The imaging system arrived in March, followed by a week-long installation. Christiana Care has hired two additional MRI technologists, who will start training in breast imaging in June, says Renie Mullaney, MS, Director, Breast Center. Two breast imaging technologists also are being trained to perform breast MRI.
Testing will be offered to patients on a regular basis starting in mid-June.
Read more about the Cancer Center expansion here. (PDF)