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 always been the most powerful tool available for early breast cancer detection, when it has the best chance for cure. However, due to its high cost it has been recommended only for women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer. Fortunately, now there is a new more affordable, low-cost breast MRI exam that is being offered by Via Radiology in Seattle, called an Abbreviated Breast MRI (AB-MR). Read on to determine if you should consult with your doctor about this new, life-saving technology.
Do you have dense breasts? It’s important to know, because dense breast tissue can hide cancer, the main reason why you may need to have an Abbreviated Breast MRI (AB-MR). Half of all women have them, therefore it is important to know if you are one of them. 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, but not much fat. Breast density is determined by your mammogram, not by how your breasts feel.
Your breast density is determined by a radiologist and is included in the mammography report your health care provider receives. Seattle Breast Center is also now including this information in every screening mammogram patient results letter.
If it is determined that you do have dense breasts, we highly recommend AB-MR screening as the best alternative to mammograms. 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!
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 an out-of-pocket cost of $495. This compares to the average cost of breast MRI in Seattle of $3,500. 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 a price that many women may be able to afford. 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.
Via Radiology provides Seattle diagnostic imaging services in the greater Seattle area, including ultrasound, MRI, PET/CT, 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.