Health Care

What is Molecular Breast Imaging?

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Breast cancer is the second deadliest cancer for women in the U.S. which means prevention is key. For women over 40, this is the ideal time to engage in conversation with your doctor about your breast health. Breast cancer screenings are still the top recommended way for early diagnosis to help protect your whole health and wellness.

We're here to be by your side as you take this important step in your health journey. We can help more women survive and thrive during and after a cancer diagnosis. 

One advance in breast cancer screening is molecular breast imaging – a functional imaging test that takes pictures of what breast tissue looks like, and more importantly, its activity. Cells that are rapidly growing and dividing, which may indicate cancerous cells, appear brighter than less active tissue. We have some helpful information should your doctor recommend this imaging test for you.

Who needs a molecular breast imaging test?

With so many options for breast cancer screening tests, it can be challenging to determine which test is best. Your provider can help walk you through your options and discuss which screening is right based on your family and medical history. 

Your doctor may recommend molecular breast imaging if you have:

  • Dense breast tissue. Mammogram combined with molecular breast imaging can more accurately detect breast cancer compared to mammogram alone.
  • A lump or abnormality. Your doctor may order molecular breast imaging to gain a clearer image and understanding of an abnormality or inconclusive results from a mammogram.

How does a molecular breast imaging test work?

Molecular breast imaging scans are painless and relatively quick. Your doctor will inject a radioactive tracer into a vein — fast-growing cells absorb the tracer, which helps identify cancer in breast tissue. Then, two special cameras are placed around the breast to capture the needed images. It will take approximately 10 minutes for the cameras to record the tracer, which allows your doctor to identify cells with abnormal activity. 

Should I be worried if my doctor recommends a molecular breast imaging test?

Any medical test or scan can make even the most relaxed of us feel anxious, worried, or nervous. It’s important to keep in mind that just because a test has been ordered doesn’t meant that anything is wrong. Your doctor is committed to gaining as much insight and clarity into your health as possible to create a plan that keeps you healthy, happy and feeling whole.

If you’re nervous about an upcoming breast imaging scan, try these simple relaxation techniques:

  • Talk to a friend or family member. It can help to talk out our feelings and gain perspective, insight and support from the people we love and trust.
  • Ask someone to accompany you. Having a friend or family member to lean on, hold your hand, and distract you before or after an appointment may help you relax and calm your fears.
  • Meditate. During the scan, close your eyes, take deep breaths and picture yourself somewhere relaxing. Imagine the sights, sounds and smells around you: The grains of sand between your toes, the sound of the waves crashing on the surf or the smell of the salt in the air. Focus your mind someplace else, and before you know it, the test will be complete. 

Are there risks?

Molecular breast imaging tests are generally safe. Risks may include:

  • Allergic reaction to tracer
  • False positives
  • Inability to detect all cancers
  • Low-level radiation exposure

Your doctor will work closely with you to discuss each of these risks and why molecular breast imaging is right for you. 

Feel Empowered to Protect Your Breast Health

Talk with your doctor today about breast cancer screenings and which test is best for you, given your medical history and family history of cancer. Together, you can make a plan that gives you a brighter, healthier future.

Locate an AdventHealth imaging center near you here.

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