Radiologists at Little Company of Mary Hospital, helping to diagnose breast cancer in women, are now performing MRI-guided breast biopsies in addition to other image-guided breast biopsy procedures.

Once a lump or abnormality is detected in a patient's breast during the course of a routine physical examination, mammogram, or other imaging study, a breast biopsy may be ordered to determine whether the growth is benign or cancerous. During a biopsy a needle is inserted into suspicious tissue in the patient's breast in order to remove a small sample. Image-guided breast biopsies help physicians performing the procedures locate abnormalities that may be too small to be felt.

MRI-guided breast biopsies utilize magnetic resonance imaging, a technique that has been commonly used by physicians to diagnose other medical conditions for nearly 30 years, to help diagnosticians guide their instruments into breast abnormalities that are too small to be seen even by mammogram or ultrasound. Unlike stereotactic biopsy, MRI-guided breast biopsy does not expose patients to any radiation.

According to Dr. Olga Ivanov, the only fellowship-trained female breast surgeon in Chicago's Southwest area and medical director of Little Company's Comprehensive Breast Health Center, "Not every cancer can be detected by a mammogram. If the cancer cannot be seen on a mammogram, we cannot biopsy it with a stereotactic procedure."

Patients undergoing MRI-guided breast biopsies are subject to no other risks or side effects than those undergoing more traditional procedures. According to Kate Erickson, B.S., RT®(MR)(CT) supervisor of Little Company's MRI Department, "There is a lot of confusion about magnetic resonance imaging. There is no radiation involved with MRI. Even so, we sense some patients need an extra bit of reassurance, and we provide that."

At Little Company of Mary, all of the providers working on a patient's case — from radiologists to pathologists to medical oncologists and surgeons — work together as a comprehensive, integrated team to most effectively diagnose (and in instances where a growth is found to be cancerous, to treat) the patient's condition. "Every woman needs a truly individualized treatment plan, and at Little Company we provide that," Dr. Ivanov said. "Little Company is a very compassionate place," Erickson added. "I get so many comments from patients who feel like they're not forgotten when they come here."