What is a rapid breast MRI scan?

If you've been told you have dense breasts, a private MRI scan can give you peace of mind, as well as making sure you get treatment sooner if you need it.

At GenesisCare, we offer rapid MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans for women with dense breasts. A rapid MRI is also known as an abbreviated MRI. It's an advanced screening technique that's better able to detect breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue than a standard mammogram or ultrasound and has the same sensitivity of cancer detection as a standard MRI that takes longer to perform and is more costly.

A rapid breast MRI scan takes just 10 - 15 minutes.

Why do I need a rapid breast MRI scan?

Breasts are made up of different types of tissue – fibrous, glandular, and fatty. Some women have a higher proportion of fibrous and glandular tissue in their breasts. This makes the breasts denser.

The only way you can tell if you have dense breasts is from a mammogram. Around half of women in their 40s have either dense or very dense breasts. It’s slightly less common in older women and after the menopause.

There are four categories of breast density:

A Fatty                B Heterogeneously dense         

C Scattered        D Extremely dense    

Categories C and D are the most dense breasts.

Benefits of a rapid breast MRI scan

Early detection

It’s harder to spot early signs of cancer in dense breasts using a standard mammogram, so the cancer may have already progressed by the time it’s found.

Greater accuracy

A rapid MRI scan is a more powerful screening test than a standard mammogram and is significantly better at detecting breast cancer in women with dense breasts.

What causes dense breasts?

Dense breasts are when you have a more fibrous and glandular tissue and less fatty tissue. It’s not known what causes this.

You won’t be able to tell if you have dense breasts just by feeling them. The size of your breasts also doesn’t mean you have dense breasts. The only way you can know is from having a mammogram.

Rapid MRI scans aren’t offered as standard screening tests through the NHS or elsewhere and are usually only available if you have a very high risk of breast cancer.

A rapid MRI can give you peace of mind if the scan is clear. If we do detect breast cancer, finding the cancer early is important so that you can get the treatment you need as soon as possible.

Book an appointment

Call our experienced team to get fast and easy access to an appointment and results within five working days, with no need for a GP referral.

0808 304 2332
0808 304 2332

Rapid breast MRI scanning at GenesisCare

If you have dense breasts and are worried about breast cancer, you can book a rapid MRI scan at GenesisCare without the need for a referral if you:

  • Have had a mammogram within the last 12 months (if you haven't already had one, private mammogram screening appointments are also available at GenesisCare)
  • Are aged 40 years or over
  • Have been told you have heterogeneously dense or extremely dense breasts
  • Have no symptoms of breast cancer
  • Are not pregnant or breast feeding

If you have dense breasts, you can choose to have a rapid MRI scan every two years.

What happens at my appointment?

  1. Before your rapid MRI scan, we ask you to complete an MRI safety questionnaire.
  2. We'll ask you important questions such as if you have metal implants; body piercings; electrical devices such as a pacemaker
  3. Before the scan starts a cannula (a small plastic tube) is inserted into a vein in your arm or hand, a dye called a contrast media will then be injected during the scan using the cannula. This IV contrast improves the clarity of images of the scan and is required for the breast MRI
  4. The scan itself takes around 15 minutes and you can go home as soon as your scan is complete. The whole appointment takes around 30 minutes.

Results and next steps

We understand that waiting for scan results can be an anxious time. Our expert radiologists will review your scan and share your results within five working days.

If your scan is normal, we’ll send a letter to you and your GP to confirm the results. You don’t need to do anything else but continue to check your breasts regularly and go to your NHS mammograms when you’re invited.

If your scan shows anything of concern, we’ll call you to discuss your results and discuss your options. This doesn’t always mean you have breast cancer, but if further tests are required, additional costs may apply.

  • If you have private medical insurance or are self-funding, we can arrange an appointment for you at our one-stop breast clinic to have a biopsy or any other necessary tests. We’ll send your GP a letter to keep them informed.
  • If you choose to use the NHS breast service, we’ll write to your GP to inform that you need to be recalled and have chosen to go back into the NHS for this and will follow up with your GP to ensure receipt of this letter.


Reviewed by:

Dr Fleur Kilburn-Toppin
Specialist Advisor Breast Radiology
April 2024

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