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Mammography is the gold standard for breast cancer screening. Even so, it has limitations. Some tumors may be undetectable in the resulting X-ray images, particularly if a woman has dense breasts, which have much more fibrous and glandular tissue than fatty tissue. For this reason, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is often recommended as a supplemental screening method for women with dense breasts.

Unlike mammography, the accuracy of MRI imaging is not affected by dense breast tissue or limited in finding lobular cancer. In fact, MRI has the highest cancer detection rate of all breast imaging exams across all breast density categories. While a conventional breast MRI usually takes 30-45 minutes, abbreviated breast magnetic resonance imaging (AB-MRI) is a shortened version that can usually be completed in 10-15 minutes. Because AB-MRI is more targeted and acquires fewer imaging sequences than long-protocol breast MRI, the scan time is greatly reduced, as is the associated cost.

What does AB-MRI involve?

AB-MRI does not use ionizing radiation or require breast compression. During the exam, the patient lies face down on a table with her breasts placed in special holders. After a few initial images are captured, the patient is given an injection of contrast dye, which can highlight any abnormalities in the resulting images—even relatively small lesions in highly dense breast tissue.

AB-MRI allows a patient to have a highly sensitive breast exam that is less expensive than a traditional MRI but can still detect breast cancer more reliably than a mammogram. However, it is intended to be used as a supplement to—not a replacement for—mammography. Moreover, AB-MRI is not appropriate for every patient. For instance, a conventional breast MRI remains the standard of care for patients who are at high risk for breast cancer.

If you have questions about AB-MRI, you are welcome to talk with a breast cancer specialist in the Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. To request an appointment, please call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online.