For some people, supplemental imaging may be used with mammograms as a screening tool for detecting breast cancer. That group of people includes women with a high risk of breast cancer, who have a very strong family history of breast cancer, carry a hereditary breast cancer gene mutation or have dense breast tissue.
As the density of breast tissue increases, the ability to detect breast cancer with screening mammography becomes more challenging. Having dense breast tissue will not affect your daily life. However, it increases the chance that breast cancer may go undetected by a mammogram, since dense breast tissue can mask a potential cancer. It also increases your risk of breast cancer, though we aren’t certain why yet.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast — or breast MRI — captures multiple images of your breast without the use of radiation. Breast MRI uses magnets to create images of the breast which are combined, using a computer, to create detailed pictures.
Molecular breast imaging uses a special camera – a gamma camera – that records the activity of a radioactive tracer. The tracer is injected into a vein in your arm. Normal tissue and cancerous tissue react differently to the tracer, which can be seen in the images produced by the gamma camera. Areas that absorb more tracer appear as bright spots on the images.
Every test has pros and cons. Talk with your primary care provider about your breast cancer risk factors. Together you can decide whether additional screening tests are right for you.