Objective: To investigate the utility of ultrafast dynamic-contrast-enhanced (DCE) MRI in visualization and quantitative characterization of pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PABC) and its differentiation from background-parenchymal-enhancement (BPE) among lactating patients. Materials and methods: Twenty-nine lactating participants, including 10 PABC patients and 19 healthy controls, were scanned on 3-T MRI using a conventional DCE protocol interleaved with a golden-angle radial sparse parallel (GRASP) ultrafast sequence for the initial phase. The timing of the visualization of PABC lesions was compared to lactational BPE. Contrast-noise ratio (CNR) was compared between the ultrafast and conventional DCE sequences. The differences in each group’s ultrafast-derived kinetic parameters including maximal slope (MS), time to enhancement (TTE), and area under the curve (AUC) were statistically examined using the Mann–Whitney test and receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curve analysis. Results: On ultrafast MRI, breast cancer lesions enhanced earlier than BPE (p < 0.0001), enabling breast cancer visualization freed from lactation BPE. A higher CNR was found for ultrafast acquisitions vs. conventional DCE (p < 0.05). Significant differences in AUC, MS, and TTE values were found between the tumor and BPE (p < 0.05), with ROC-derived AUC of 0.86 ± 0.06, 0.82 ± 0.07, and 0.68 ± 0.08, respectively. The BPE grades of the lactating PABC patients were reduced as compared with the healthy lactating controls (p < 0.005). Conclusion: Ultrafast DCE MRI allows BPE-free visualization of lesions, improved tumor conspicuity, and kinetic quantification of breast cancer during lactation. Implementation of this method may assist in the utilization of breast MRI for lactating patients. Clinical relevance: The ultrafast sequence appears to be superior to conventional DCE MRI in the challenging evaluation of the lactating breast. Thus, supporting its possible utilization in the setting of high-risk screening during lactation and the diagnostic workup of PABC. Key Points: • Differences in the enhancement slope of cancer relative to BPE allowed the optimal visualization of PABC lesions on mid-acquisitions of ultrafast DCE, in which the tumor enhanced prior to the background parenchyma. • The conspicuity of PABC lesions on top of the lactation-related BPE was increased using an ultrafast sequence as compared with conventional DCE MRI. • Ultrafast-derived maps provided further characterization and parametric contrast between PABC lesions and lactation-related BPE.
- Breast neoplasms
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- Pregnancy-associated breast cancer