FAST Breast MRI is a screening exam for women with average to intermediate risk of developing breast cancer that is supplemental to regular mammograms. It is a shortened version of a regular breast MRI, requiring less than 8 minutes in the scanner. 

FAST Breast MRI will significantly improve our ability to find cancers not seen on a mammogram, but it does not replace your annual mammogram. Talk with your physician about whether you need an additional screening exam for breast cancer. You will need an order from your provider to schedule a FAST Breast MRI exam. We require you to have had a mammogram within one year of a FAST Breast MRI exam.

Who is eligible for a FAST Breast MRI?

Women of average to intermediate risk for developing breast cancer. Criteria:

  1. Normal mammogram within one year
  2. Less than 20% lifetime risk of breast cancer
  3. Day 6-12 of menstrual cycle if pre-menopausal; if post or peri-menopausal, no restrictions
  4. Asymptomatic (no current breast symptoms)
  5. No pathogenic mutation for breast cancer

FAST Breast MRI exams are available at our locations in Chevy Chase and Potomac, MD, Fairfax, VA, and Washington, DC.

FAST Breast MRI is not covered by insurance. The out-of-pocket cost of the exam is $495.


A registered technologist will oversee your exam, carefully positioning you on a padded scanning table that gently slides into the MRI magnet where the imaging is performed. To obtain the best images, you will lie face down with two cushioned openings that are surrounded by a special device called a breast coil. This device acts as a signal receiver and works with the MRI scanner to create the images.

An initial series of scans will be taken. You will then be given an intravenous injection of contrast to better visualize the breast tissue. Then, a second set of images will be taken.  

Because MRI uses no X-rays and ionizing radiation, it presents no known risk to adults and children. If you are pregnant or nursing, you should consult your physician before having an MRI exam.

A registered MRI technologist will help you prepare for the exam, position you on the table and perform the exam as directed by the radiologist. Together, this medical team will oversee your care and ensure you are comfortable. The exam will be interpreted by a board-certified breast specialized radiologist with specialized expertise in MRI evaluations and reporting.

A board-certified breast specialized radiologist will interpret your scan and the dictated results will be sent to your referring physician, usually within 24 to 48 hours. Your physician will then share the results with you.

There are some situations where MRI is not recommended due to the use of the high-field magnet. We will review these details with you during scheduling to be sure you are an appropriate candidate for MRI. These conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • History of a heart pacemaker
  • History of an artificial heart valve
  • Severe claustrophobia

The Washington Radiology nurse overseeing your care will call you several days before the exam to review preparation and additional conditions where metal may be in the body, and therefore would not allow the use of MRI as a diagnostic tool.

Preparing for Your Exam

Patient peace of mind starts with the right preparation. In addition to the written order from your physician, bring any prior images or reports from outside Washington Radiology with you to your appointment, if related to the reason for your visit with us.  

For all MRI patients, we request the following:

  • Continue to take any medications prescribed by your physician, unless otherwise directed.
  • Wear comfortable clothing without metal zippers, buttons, hooks, etc.
  • Because of the magnetic field, do not wear metal hair clips or eye makeup that may contain small metallic flecks, which can interfere with your scan.
  • Leave jewelry and valuables at home.
  • A secure locker will be available to leave metal objects, like your keys and watch.

Breast MRI With and/or Without Contrast

  • Inform us if you have a pacemaker, artificial heart valves or any metal objects in your body, or if you are pregnant or nursing.
  • Do not eat or drink two hours before your exam.
  • The timing of the exam should be linked to the menstrual cycle for women who are premenopausal. The best time to perform a breast MRI is between 6 and 12 days of the patient’s menstrual cycle. If a patient has irregular menstrual cycles, the exam can be scheduled any time with the understanding that residual hormonal activity can render the exam difficult to interpret. For patients who are postmenopausal, the exam can be performed any time. 

If you have follow-up questions about these MRI preparations, contact the Washington Radiology office where your exam is scheduled and ask to speak with the nurse.

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