Breast MRIs/ Molecular Breast Imaging/ high risk for breast cancer
I wanted to update everyone on an issue I've been trying to resolve for YEARS.
When I received my pacemaker six years ago, I made sure that I got something that was MRI compatible. Good thing, since six months later I had a hemorrhagic stroke and multiple brain MRIs since then.
I'm also at extremely high risk for breast cancer, due to chest radiation I had for cancer as a young adult. Because of that risk, I'd been having screening breast MRIs prior to getting the pacemaker. However, even though I obviously CAN get MRIs, I couldn't find anyone to actually do one or any information about whether the image would be useable or whether the risk is worth the information they'd be able to get. The device is in one of the highest risk areas of my breast.
I was finally offered the opportunity to get a molecular breast image, an MBI, but that took over three years to happen. I won't get into the bureaucratic nightmare that has been. Suffice to say I do have a new primary at the cancer hospital and the actual MBI was a good experience once it finally happened.
It is safe for those who have pacemakers and is not as uncomfortable as a mammogram (which you still have to get, by the way).
The way it works is they inject you with a very tiny dose of radioactive dye, the same as is used for heart imaging, but a lower dose I think. They position you, sitting, in a machine that uses plates to hold your breast. It's similar to getting a mammogram but much less squeezy. Plus you're sitting down, and there's a TV on to keep you occupied, because you have to hold the position for a long time - like 20 minutes. I can't remember how long each view was, but I think the total was under an hour, and that included for me some mammo views since the local place I'd gotten one at last fall didn't have everything they needed up to their standards.
Anyway, I know I'm not the only one in this boat, needing additional screening due to high BC risk but being excluded due to the pacemaker - which, in my case, is also due to long-term chest radiation effects. Everything for me turned out to be A-OK, which was quite a relief. Besides being at very high risk, I have dense breasts and that makes certain cancers harder to spot on mammograms. Not getting the additional screening from MRIs was definitely stressful.
The technology is not readily available everywhere, but I will say that my insurance company was more than happy to approve the "experimental" procedure - which is much cheaper than an MRi. It was the hospital end that kept screwing up the paperwork they needed. I know that Mayo and MD Anderson are instutions that have developed this modality. The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) provides a list here of other institutions in the US that do Breast MBIs: https://www.snmmi.org/AboutSNMMI/CommitteeContent.aspx?ItemNumber=35578
Anyway, hope this information helps someone else in the same boat! There are a lot of women out there who have pacemakers but still need additional screening, due to prior chest radiation at a young age, BRCA genes, or other factors.