Abbreviated Breast MRI

Abbreviated Breast MRI

Abbreviated Breast MRI Seattle, WA

Breast MRI is by far the most accurate breast imaging test in use today. It is exceedingly rare for breast MRI to miss an invasive breast cancer. Unfortunately, breast MRI is less common due to its high cost. Via Radiology now offers a new low cost version of a breast MRI known as an Abbreviated Breast MRI (AB-MR).

Abbreviated Breast MRI (AB-MR) is a low cost breast MRI exam that has been developed by Via Radiology specifically for screening women with dense breasts. AB-MR does not have radiation, does not require breast compression and has the same accuracy as the standard exam.

Via Radiology was Featured on King5 New Day for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Watch Via Radiology’s breast imaging specialist, Dr. Craig Hanson, on King 5’s New Day NW discuss what it means to have dense breasts and your options for additional breast imaging services.

Via Radiology offers an Abbreviated Breast MRI (AB-MR), also known as “Fast Breast MRI”, for $495. MRI detects 4 times more breast cancers than mammograms. As Dr. Hanson notes, “By far our best and most advanced imaging tool for finding breast cancer is MRI.” And, importantly, it finds them at a very early stage, when there is the best chance for cure with the least amount of treatment. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.

Featured on King5 New Day Earlier This Year

Via Radiology’s breast imaging expert, Dr. Craig Hanson, was on King 5’s New Day NW show discussing the importance of breast density, how it is determined and why women with dense breasts should consider a new lower cost breast MRI screening option in addition to mammograms, called Abbreviated or FAST Breast MRI.


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What is breast density?

Breast tissue is composed of fat and connective tissue elements. Breast density refers to how much fat there is compared to connective tissue on a mammogram. The more connective tissue, the more dense. Breast density as seen on a mammogram does not necessarily correlate with how your breasts feel. Having dense breast tissue is a common and normal finding. About 50% of women have dense breasts.

Why is breast density important?

Dense breast tissue is important for two reasons:

  1. Depending on how dense your tissue is, it may moderately increase your risk of getting breast cancer.
  2. Most importantly, dense breast tissue makes it much more difficult to find cancer on mammograms. Dense tissue can actually hide a cancer when it is early and has the best chance for cure.
How do I find out if I have dense breasts?

Breast density is determined by the radiologist who reads your mammogram. This information is included in the mammogram report that goes to your health care provider.  Some breast imaging facilities, including Seattle Breast Center, also provide this information in the results letter you receive after your mammogram.


If I have dense breasts, what other tests should I consider?

Studies have shown that ultrasound and MRI can find cancers that cannot be seen on a mammogram. Breast MRI is by far the most accurate breast imaging test in use today. It is exceedingly rare for Breast MRI to miss an invasive breast cancer. To put this into perspective:

  • Mammography detects 4-5 cancers per 1000 women screened.
  • Ultrasound detects an additional 2-4 cancers per 1000 women screened.
  • Breast MRI detects an additional 16-23 cancers per 1000 women screened.
If it is so accurate, why has MRI not been used more often?

Breast MRI has been recommended for many years for screening women who are at high risk for developing breast cancer. The reason it has been limited to these women is primarily because of its high cost. However, there is a new low cost Breast MRI exam that has been developed specifically for screening women with dense breasts, called Abbreviated Breast MRI (AB-MR). AB-MR does not have radiation, does not require breast compression and has the same accuracy as the standard exam.

If I get Breast MRI do I also need to have mammograms?

Based on current scientific information, it is recommended that you continue with mammograms every year starting at age 40 in addition to any other screening that you may undergo.

How often should I get Breast MRI screening?

Official guidelines for breast MRI screening in women of average to intermediate risk have not been established. However, based on currently available data from the medical literature along with American Cancer Society and American College of Radiology guidelines, we recommend the following breast MRI screening intervals (in addition to yearly mammograms):

1. Average risk and dense breasts, less than age 55: Breast MRI every 2 years
2. Average risk and dense breasts, 55 and older: Breast MRI every 3 years
3. Intermediate risk and dense breasts, less than 55: Breast MRI every year
4. Intermediate risk and dense breasts, 55 and older: Breast MRI every 2 years
5. High risk, any breast density, any age: Breast MRI every year
6. Personal history of breast cancer and dense breasts, any age: Breast MRI every year
7. Personal history of breast cancer diagnosed before age 50, any breast density: Breast MRI every year

Note: Abbreviated breast MRI (AB-MR) is offered as a lower cost, out-of-pocket alternative when standard breast MRI is not covered by the patient’s insurance.

What should I do if I have dense breasts?

If you have dense breasts, please talk to your health care provider. Together, you can decide if additional screening is right for you and, depending on your risk, how often you should get it. We highly recommend AB-MR as the best screening option. AB-MR exams are read by our expert breast imaging radiologists at Seattle Breast Center.


Via Radiology—Meridian Pavilion is pleased to offer AB-MR at an out of pocket cost of $495.

What about false positive test results?

No breast cancer screening test is perfect. There will be times when something is found that requires further testing, including possibly a needle biopsy, to determine if there is truly a cancer present. If it turns out that no cancer is present, it’s called a false positive. Ultrasound has the highest false positive rate. Fortunately, when read by expert breast imaging radiologists, the false-positive rate for AB-MR is relatively low and similar to mammograms.

Will my menstrual cycle have an effect on image quality?

For premenopausal women, the hormonal changes that occur during your menstrual cycle can have a major effect on the accuracy of breast MRI (it can result in more false positives and potentially make it more difficult to detect a cancer). Assuming a normal 28 day cycle with day 1 being the first day of your menstrual period, the best time to have a breast MRI is between day 5 and 15, although ideally between day 7 and 10.  In other words, week 2 is the best time. The worst time is during the last week of your cycle. If you have irregular cycles or you are less than age 55 and have had a hysterectomy but still have your ovaries, the radiologist will do his best to accurately interpret your examination without the benefit of ideal timing of the exam

Can I eat and drink before my Breast MRI exam?

Yes, you may eat and drink before this exam.

What if I am pregnant or nursing?
We do not perform screening abbreviated breast MRI for women who are pregnant or are breast feeding.
What if I have an implanted medical device?

Some medical devices are MRI compatible, whereas others are not. If you are uncertain, you can contact us with the device model information.

What if I am claustrophobic and fearful of small spaces?

Some patients become fearful or agitated in small, enclosed areas (claustrophobic) or experience discomfort when lying on their chest for 10-20 minutes. If you dislike small spaces or have difficulty lying down on your stomach, please ask your referring health care provider to prescribe a sedative or pain medication to help you through the exam.

I plan to take a sedative or pain medication. Do I need a driver?

Yes, you do. If you plan to take sedative or pain medication before your exam, it is our policy that you come with someone who can drive you home.

What if I have had a mammogram at a different facility within the last two years?

If you have had a mammogram at a facility other than the Seattle Breast Center within the past two years, it is helpful to your evaluation to bring it with you at the time of your exam. You should be able to get a copy of your images by contacting the facility.

When should I arrive?

When you schedule your exam, you will be given an arrival time of 30 minutes before your actual scan time.

What should I wear?

Do not wear anything metallic during the MRI exam. You will be asked to change into a gown in our changing area, where you can lock your valuables and/or any metallic objects in a locker.

What if I have additional questions prior to the exam?

You will fill out a questionnaire during an interview process with one of the female MRI technologists. She will be able to answer any additional questions or concerns you may have.

Will I need to have any injections?

A small amount of dye (contrast agent) is injected during the exam to enhance visualization of a possible cancer. The technologist will place a small intravenous (IV) catheter in your arm for the injection. It is not possible to perform the exam without this contrast agent.

What can I expect during the procedure?

After being escorted to the MRI room, you will be asked to lie face down with your breasts placed in a hollow depression in the scanning table, which contains coils that detect radiofrequency signals from the MRI machine. Your arms will be at your side or above your head. For comfort and optimal imaging, the coils we use can be customized for each breast. A premium headrest also enhances your comfort and warm blankets are available.

The scanning table will slide your entire body into the large, central opening of the MRI machine. The MRI machine creates a magnetic field around you, and radio waves are directed at your body. You won’t feel the magnetic field or radio waves, but you may hear loud tapping, thumping and other sounds coming from inside the machine. Headphones are provided with music, which help dampen the noise and allow the technologist to communicate with you during the exam.

Do I need to lie still throughout the entire MRI exam?

Yes. Breast MRI is very sensitive to motion, which may not only cause inaccurate test results, but require that the exam be repeated on another day. You will be instructed to breathe normally but to lie as still as possible until the exam is completed. Therefore, it is important that you are in a comfortable position before the scanning starts.

How long does the exam take?

Abbreviated Breast MRI (AB-MR) generally takes less than 10 minutes, AB-MR Plus for silicone implants usually takes 20-25 minutes, and Routine Breast MRI generally takes approximately 25 minutes. This does not include paperwork, changing, IV start, positioning, etc. Sets of images, called pulse sequences, will be obtained for 1-4 minutes at a time with breaks in between. During the breaks it is important that you remain still.

Will a technologist be nearby?

The technologist is always able to see and hear you during the exam, but we attempt to keep talking to a minimum to reduce the chance of movement, which can blur the images.

Does my insurance cover this procedure?

Abbreviated breast MRI is a very new exam being offered at Via Radiology-Meridian Pavilion and is currently not covered by insurance, including Medicare. You will be responsible to pay the $495, either in full or by installment payment plan. Please call ahead of your scheduled appointment if you have any questions about this.

Will Breast MRI eventually be a covered benefit through insurance?

There is a “Dense Breast Movement” working to get legislation passed through Congress.  For more information and to help advocate, please see

How much will Breast MRI cost?
  • AB-MR without breast implants – $495
  • AB-MR with saline implants – $495
  • AB-MR with silicone implants (AB-MR Plus) – $595
  • Standard Breast MRI – variable, subject to insurance
Is the radiologist interpretation included in the price quote or is it billed separately?

For AB-MR, all costs of the exam are included and are paid up front. For Routine Breast MRI, it depends on the location of service and the bill is generally processed by insurance. At Via Radiology—Meridian Pavilion, all costs are included in a single bill. At Northwest Hospital there are two bills, one for the facility and one for the radiologist interpretation. AB-MR is not performed at Northwest Hospital.


What can I expect after the exam?

The IV will be removed from your arm and you may go to the changing area to prepare to leave.

Are there any restrictions after the exam?

Unless you took relaxation medication, there are no restrictions placed upon you. You may eat and drive. If you took a sedative or pain medication for the exam, you will need someone to drive you home.

When can I expect to receive results?

Your Breast MRI exam will be interpreted by one of our radiologists specializing in breast imaging. A report will usually be available within one business day of your exam.

How do I find out the results of my exam?

If you have referred yourself for an AB-MR, a results letter will be sent directly to you. We would also prefer to send a copy of the report to your primary health care provider. Please include the name of your provider on the paperwork you are given at the time of check-in. A standard breast MRI must be ordered by your health care provider, who will automatically be sent the report. You will need to get the results from your provider. If additional imaging and/or a needle biopsy is required to further evaluate an abnormality on your MRI, you will be contacted by telephone by a staff person at either Via Radiology-Meridian Pavilion or the Seattle Breast Center.

I have silicone gel breast implants. Can I have an AB-MR exam?

Yes. The FDA recommends that women with silicone gel-filled implants have routine breast MRI exams to evaluate for silent implant rupture starting at 3 years after the implants have been placed, and every 2 years thereafter. We offer a special abbreviated breast MRI exam, called AB-MR Plus, that screens for both breast cancer and implant rupture, at a charge of $595 (the price is higher than a regular AB-MR due to the additional time involved to evaluate the implants).


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