Via Radiology diligently works with Seattle Breast Center to provide state-of-the-art breast cancer screening services. It has long been known that mammograms are much less accurate in women who have dense breast tissue, but until now the only other option has been breast ultrasound, which only detects a small number of additional cancers and has a high false positive rate, meaning there are too many follow-up exams and negative biopsies that are done. Breast MRI has long been the single most accurate imaging test for detection of early breast cancer, when it has the best chance for cure and with the least amount of treatment. And, it has a much lower false positive rate than ultrasound. However, because of its high cost, it has generally only been recommended for women who are at high risk of getting breast cancer, which is only about 10% of women. Fortunately, now there is a new, more affordable, breast MRI exam that is being offered by Via Radiology in Seattle, called Abbreviated Breast MRI (AB-MR). Read on to determine if you are a candidate for this new, life-saving technology.
Do you have dense breasts? It is important to know because dense breast tissue can hide cancer, which is the main reason why you may need to have an Abbreviated Breast MRI (AB-MR). In fact, mammograms miss cancers in up to 68% of the time in women with dense breasts. Half of all women have dense breasts. Therefore, it is important to know if you are one of them. Breast density is determined by your mammogram, not by how the breasts feel. Breast tissue is composed of fibrous, glandular and fatty tissue. Breasts are considered “dense” if there is a lot of fibrous and/or glandular tissue compared to the amount of fatty tissue.
Your breast density is determined by the radiologist who reads your mammogram and is included in the mammography report your health care provider receives. Seattle Breast Center also provides this information directly to the patient in the results letter they receive after every mammogram screening.
If it is determined that you do have dense breasts, we highly recommend AB-MR screening. To put this into perspective:
• Mammograms detect 4-5 cancers per 1000 women screened. Ultrasound detects an additional 2-4 cancer per 1000 women screened.
• Breast MRI detects virtually all of the cancers that mammograms and ultrasound find plus an additional 16-23 cancer per 1000 women screened. In other words, AB-MR finds as many as 3 times more cancers than mammograms and breast ultrasound combined! And it finds most of them when they are early and most curable.
An Abbreviated Breast MRI (AB-MR) is similar to a standard breast MRI, but much faster. Because the accuracy of AB-MR is not affected by tissue density, it is especially useful for screening women with dense breasts. The exam takes less than 10 mins, there is no radiation involved, and it does not require breast compression. Most importantly, studies have shown that the accuracy of abbreviated breast MRI is the same as the longer, much more costly standard version. With our commitment to providing state-of-the-art technology, Via Radiology is proud to be the first facility in the Pacific Northwest to offer AB-MR. AB-MR exams are interpreted by our expert breast imaging radiologists, who also provide professional services at the Seattle Breast Center at UW Medicine/Northwest Hospital & Medical Center.
AB-MR is being offered for breast cancer screening for a total out-of-pocket cost of $495. This compares to the average cost of breast MRI in Seattle of $3,700. Unless you are one of the 10% of women who are at high risk, screening exams that are done in addition to mammograms (including breast ultrasound and AB-MR) are unfortunately not covered by insurance at this time. That is why Via Radiology is doing its best to offer AB-MR at as low a price as possible. It is also important to note that because AB-MR is so powerful in detecting early breast cancers, we are currently suggesting women who are at less than high risk only need to be screened with AB-MR every 2 – 3 years, which lowers the annual cost to $165 – $248 and is similar to or even less than the cost of breast ultrasound if done every year.
Via Radiology provides Seattle diagnostic imaging services in the greater Seattle area, including ultrasound, MRI, PET, CT scans and x-ray. We also provide image-guided interventional services and screening services, including CT lung cancer screening. Call 206-306-1011 or contact us online for more information about our breast cancer screening in Seattle.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.