NEW GUIDELINES FOR BREAST HEALTH

By Elizabeth Meier

The American Cancer Society now advises that women with an “unusually high risk of developing breast cancer, as well as women newly diagnosed with breast cancer” have an annual breast MRI performed in addition to an annual clinical breast exam and mammogram. An MRI “revealed cancers in the opposite breast that were missed by ordinary mammograms in 3 percent of cancer survivors” involved in a new medical study. An MRI is a diagnostic scan that can examine soft tissues, organs and bones. MRIs show soft tissue abnormalities and injuries with great specificity and articulation. The MRI scan is an outpatient procedure; afterwards you will be able to resume your day-to-day life. The current breast cancer screening guidelines for the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force can be seen below.

Current breast cancer screening guidelines by organization*

American Cancer Society
Annual mammogram for women ages 40 and over.
Clinical breast exam every two to three years for women ages 20 to 40, and annually for women ages 40 and over.
Annual breast MRI for women whose lifetime risk of breast cancer is greater than 20%. Women whose risk is 15% to 20% should discuss the risks and benefits of annual breast MRI with their doctor to determine whether it is appropriate for them.

National Cancer Institute
Mammogram every one to two years for women ages 40 and over.
Clinical breast exam every one to two years.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force
Mammography with or without clinical breast examination every one to two years for women ages 40 and over.

*All of the groups consider breast self-exam, which has not been demonstrated to save lives, to be optional. They also set no upper age limit on mammography, instead advising annual mammograms for any woman who can realistically expect to live at least five more years and would be a candidate for treatment should she be diagnosed with breast cancer.
(http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/MRIs-emerging-role-in-breast-cancer-screening.htm)

“MRI’s value in detecting breast cancer is most evident in studies involving women at high risk for the disease. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2004, Dutch researchers followed 1,900 women with a risk of breast cancer greater than 15% due to genetic mutations or family history. (The average lifetime risk is 12.7%.) For nearly three years, the women received yearly MRIs as well as semiannual clinical breast exams and yearly mammograms. Mammography detected 18 cancers but missed 22 that were found on MRI. MRI found 32 cancers and missed only eight that showed up on mammograms.” (Health.Harvard.edu)

“Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a 3-dimensional test to evaluate the breasts. You are placed on your belly on a table that is surrounded by a tubular structure and requires you to lie still for about 20 minutes. A material called gadolinium is used for contrast and is injected prior to going in the tube. There is no radiation exposure. The test looks at the blood flow in your breasts and areas will “light up” if there is increased blood flow. It is important to note that certain conditions may prevent you from having this test. These include any metal in your body, any previous allergic reaction to gadolinium contrast material, claustrophobia and too much weight. The MRI is a magnet so any metal will be attracted to the machine. There is a maximum weight limit so being too heavy may also prevent testing. Breast MRI seems to be a good tool for women who have very dense breasts, where mammograms may be limited in viewing the breasts well.” (Doctor Oz)

The risk involved in having an MRI performed is minimal to non-existent. An MRI scan is one of the safest exams performed. MRIs do not use radiation, as opposed to X-Rays. However, MRI does have some limitations – If you have a pacemaker or certain body implants then you should not have an MRI scan. Be sure to ask your doctor if you have either (MRISG). The high cost of the MRI scan is one of its limitations; NBC News reports that while a mammogram costs roughly $100 to $150, an MRI can cost $2,000 or more at some medical centers, experts said. “It’s very, very expensive,” said Robert Smith, the cancer society’s director of cancer screening. Many insurers cover MRI screenings, but not all do, Smith and others said.

Thankfully, there are organizations such as MRI Scan Group (MRISG), who work with uninsured and underinsured patients to find them an affordable, reduced-cost scan at a location nearest them. With the help of MRISG, patients can receive a breast MRI at a fraction of the cost found at most medical centers. If you are at high risk of developing breast cancer, or have been newly diagnosed with breast cancer, take some of the financial stress out of the equation by using MRI Scan Group to locate an affordable breast MRI at a center near you. Visit their website for more information: http://mriscangroup.com/index.php

RESOURCES:

http://mriscangroup.com/index.php

http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/MRIs-emerging-role-in-breast-cancer-screening.htm

http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/katherine-lee-md/breast-mri-who-should-get-one

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/17818068/#.UcnJrPnVCKE

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MRI SAFETY WEEK!

By Norman McPhail

Welcome to MRI Safety Week! MRI Safety week was put in place to help educate both imaging centers & patients. Safety is always top priority for MRI centers but they can always do better. A few years back (2001), a patient in New York died due to a metal oxygen canister being drawn into the MRI where the patient was lying. With proper preparation, this accident should never have happened. MRI Safety Week will help make your next MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan experience safer, easier and much more comfortable.

Research and preparation. An MRI is basically a large magnet that uses its magnetic field to produce pictures of your body’s organs and structures. The advantage that an MRI’s has over CT Scans or x-rays is that it does not emit cancer causing radiation, just a harmless magnetic field.
Before your MRI exam, do a little research so you know what to expect. The goal is to be prepared, no surprises. Learn about how an MRI works and what to expect. Knowledge will help to ease your anxiety. Ask your doctor details about why he wants the exam. What he is looking for. What MRI machine is best for your scan?

MRI Preparation. In preparing for an MRI, it is important to know that all metal objects must be removed from your body before entering into a scanning room. You must remove objects such as hearing aids, dentures, partial plates, keys, cell phone, glasses, hair pins, jewelry, piercings, watches, money clips, credit cards, coins, pens, pocket knife, just to name a few.

Drawbacks of an MRI. One of the biggest complaints about an MRI is that it is very loud. Ear plugs or music can help drown out the noise. Check with the imaging facility ahead of time to see if they have music you can listen to or if you can bring in your own music.
An additional complaint is that MRI’s are done in a confined space (23” wide tube). Some people are claustrophobic and don’t enjoy confined spaces. Even a healthy person being squeezed into a small tube and being forced to lie still for 20-30 minutes is very difficult.

Types of MRI Machines. A standard MRI exam takes place with you lying on a table inside a small tube. During the scan you must lie completely still for 20-30 minutes. Any movement can blur the results and you will have to re-do the exam.
For those who are claustrophobic, you can opt for an Open MRI. An Open MRI does not have a tube, but an open space to lie down on for the scan. A Stand-up MRI is also available (you can sit down as well) for patients that are unable to lie down. Finally, the Short Bore MRI. A Short Bore MRI works better with claustrophobic patients. The tube is 50% shorter and 5% wider than normal. Also, Short Bore machines only require part of the body to be inside the scanning tube. A high field Short Bore machine emits clearer pictures in the same amount of time.

MRI Quality. Tesla strength is important part of MRI quality. The Tesla strength is the strength of the magnet inside the MRI. Tesla strengths range from .3 all the way up to 3.0. The higher the tesla, the clearer the scan and the shorter the scan will take. But not all exams require a 3.0 tesla machine. Check with your doctor for his recommendation for type of MRI and strength that would be best for your scan.

MRI Exam with Contrast. An MRI exam may include contrast. Contrast is a dye that is injected to help enhance the scan. Contrast does cost extra. Contrast may be needed if the doctor is looking for cancer, tumor or the patient has had a previous surgery.

If you are a patient in need of an affordable diagnostic imaging scan, contact MRI Scan Group at 1.866.674.8840, and check out their website at http://mriscangroup.com/

OBESITY RECOGNIZED BY THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION

By: Norman McPhail

The American Medical Association (AMA) has taken a giant step recently, in which they now recognize obesity as a disease. The AMA’s change of heart will help expand health coverage and get more help for overweight people. “The American Medical Associations’ recognition that obesity is a disease carries a lot of clout,” says Samuel Klein, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis. “Their opinion can influence policy makers who are in a position to do more to support interventions and research to prevent and treat obesity.”

In the United States today, obesity has risen to alarming numbers. We are seeing 35% of adults as being overweight and 17% of children. In 1962, obesity was at a rock bottom of 13%. Obesity has gotten out of control and something needs to be done. The cause has been blamed on fast food, sodas, school lunch programs, you name it. Bottom line is, we all need to take control of our lives. I’m not talking about limiting the size of a soda at McDonald’s; I am talking about something that will make a difference in the lives of people that really need the help.

“I think you will probably see physicians taking obesity more seriously, counseling their patients about it,” said Morgan Downey, publisher of the online Downey Obesity Report. “Companies marketing the products will be able to take this to physicians and point to it and say, ‘Look, the mother ship has now recognized obesity as a disease”.

A number of medical issues caused by being overweight include high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, & cancer, to name just a few. However, getting the medical help you need if you have had any of these issues caused by being overweight, has always been a challenge.
Being overweight can also hinder the availability of certain medical help you might need. MRI’s have weight and size limitations on patients. Imaging quality, including ultrasounds, are affected by obesity. For a CT scan, an obese patient may need longer exposure to radiation, which can place you at risk for overexposure. This is in addition to the high cost of diagnostic imaging, even with insurance.

One downside to the AMA change is that it might encourage more people to rely on medications and drugs to combat their obesity, rather than change their lifestyle and eating habits. Exercise and healthy eating is the best defense against obesity, and we need to spread the word.

For those in need of affordable diagnostic imaging scans, there are services like MRI Scan Group, whose network of contracted imaging facilities offer reduced rates for uninsured and underinsured patients. Contact them at http://mriscangroup.com/, or call them at 1.866.674.8840.