Intermountain Healthcare Launching Abbreviated MRI to Screen Women at Higher Risk of Developing Breast Cancer

In the United States, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. One of the ways doctors have increased survival rates is with early detection using annual screening mammography.

Now, doctors at Intermountain Healthcare are using a new tool for early detection for women at higher risk of developing breast cancer called abbreviated MRI. 

Using a normal magnetic resonance imaging machine already in hospitals, doctors can do a scan of just the breasts which only takes about ten minutes, and costs significantly less than conventional MRI.

“Scans from an MRI are more sensitive and can detect certain cancers earlier than a normal mammogram,” said Brett Parkinson, MD, medical director of Intermountain Healthcare’s Breast Care Center. “Studies have also shown the sensitivity of a mammogram is about 70-85 percent while an MRI is about 95-98 percent.”

“That sensitivity is especially important for women with dense breast tissue because it can be harder for a mammogram to pick up tumors early because of the extra tissue,” added Dr. Parkinson.

The scans will be available at Intermountain Medical Center for women considered to be at higher risk for breast cancer. This is determined through a questionnaire that considers family history, density of breast tissue, and other factors, to gauge a woman’s risk.

Those with a score at or above 20 percent are considered high risk and eligible for the abbreviated MRI. SelectHealth insurance will cover the MRI for high-risk patients. However, patients will want to check with their individual insurance on coverage. Since time in the scanner is shorter, the cost is lower than a traditional MRI and will run around $400 for those paying out of pocket.

Studies have shown there are still some breast cancers that are better detected by mammograms, so abbreviated MRI won’t replace a woman’s annual screenings. Doctors say those at higher risk should receive both scans annually as a preventative measure.

MRIs for breast cancer detection in high-risk patients has been around for around 20 years. Abbreviated MRI is relatively new, and doctors hope with the faster scan and lower cost it could become more widely used in the future.
To schedule a screening, call 801-507-7840, or visit



Intermountain doctors have new tool for early detection of breast cancers, improving outcomes.