Fast Breast MRI Available to Women with Average Breast Cancer Risk

Short Screening Time, Physician Referral Needed

By Bryan Roth
June 24, 2020
Dr. Eun Lee Langman speaks with a patient about fast breast MRI

Duke Health now offers fast breast MRI, also known as abbreviated screening breast MRI, to detect breast cancer in women considered at average risk. The procedure, available at three Duke Health locations, has a higher cancer detection rate than 3-D screening mammograms alone. While not covered by insurance, it can be requested through a physician referral for an out-of-pocket cost of $400.

What Is Average Breast Cancer Risk?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) defines women at average risk as having less than a 15 percent chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. A woman’s medical, reproductive, and family history are among the factors used to determine risk.

According to Dr. Eun Lee Langman, MD, a Duke Health radiologist and breast imaging specialist, "screening mammography is the right place to start with prevention, but some cancers can be missed," she said. “This new form of MRI offers women an additional screening tool with the highest cancer detection rate available.” 

Dense Breasts May Benefit Most from Abbreviated Screening Breast MRI

Breasts are considered “dense” if they have more fibrous or glandular tissue and less fatty tissue. While the condition is very common, it can make it harder to pick up small tumors on screening mammograms. According to the ACS, breast density can increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer. 

Because of this, an abbreviated screening breast MRI may be considered in addition to a screening mammogram, Langman said. It’s important to note that the abbreviated screening breast MRI isn't a replacement for an annual mammogram. Slow growing cancers or pre-invasive cancers like those that form in your milk ducts may not easily appear on a fast breast MRI -- they may only be seen on a mammogram.

An MRI machine
Duke Health now offers fast breast MRI to detect breast cancer in women considered at average risk. The procedure has a higher cancer detection rate than 3-D screening mammograms alone.

Women at Increased Risk Can Also Get a Fast Breast MRI

If you’re considered high risk for breast cancer, Dr. Langman said a regular, annual breast MRI is typically covered by insurance and is the recommended procedure. “If a regular breast MRI is not covered by your insurance, talk to your provider about whether you may benefit from fast breast MRI,” she said.

Fast Breast MRI Benefits

There are several benefits of a fast breast MRI. For one, it’s shorter, lasting about 10 minutes compared to 45 minutes for a traditional MRI. 

It’s also more comfortable for all body types. The fast breast MRI is performed with a larger machine that provides additional space for patients. 

Finally, the out-of-pocket cost of $400, collected at the time of imaging, is less expensive than a traditional MRI when not covered by insurance.

Scheduling Your Fast Breast MRI Appointment

Fast breast MRI tests are performed at Duke Raleigh Hospital, Duke University Hospital, and Duke Women's Health Holly Springs. A referral from your primary care provider or breast imaging specialist is required to schedule an appointment.