Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, produces images using a strong magnet and radio waves. It is a highly accurate test for the detection of breast cancer, but does not take the place of mammography.
The exam is painless and generally takes between 30 to 45 minutes, not including preparation time, depending on the kind of test you need.
Your doctor may request a breast MRI for several reasons:
- You were recently diagnosed with breast cancer and you have dense breast tissue which may hide additional tumors not shown in your mammogram.
- Your treatment may include chemotherapy
- You have a personal or family history of breast cancer or are genetically predisposed to having breast cancer.
- You may have undergone previous chest radiation treatments for other cancers.
- You may have silicone breast implants.
For Your Safety
Breast MRIs are not for everyone. They cannot be performed if you have a pacemaker, defibrillator or other implanted electronic device.
Tell your technologist and your doctor if:
- You are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant. Your doctor may postpone the exam or choose an alternative exam.
- You weigh over 300 lbs.
- If you have any of the following:
- A cardiac pacemaker
- Eye implants or metal ear
- Shrapnel or non-removed bullet implants activated electronically
- Aneurysm clips
- Any metal implants anyplace in your body
Your exam may require a contrast material (either by mouth or IV) in order to create a better image. If you have allergies or asthma and your MRI scan requires a contrast material, there is a slight risk of an allergic reaction to the material. Most reactions result in itchiness or hives. For individuals with asthma who are allergic, the reaction can be an asthma attack. In very rare instances, an allergic reaction may cause swelling in your throat or other areas of your body. Diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems or thyroid conditions also increase your risk of reaction to the contrast material. Immediately tell your technologist or doctor if you experience any of these symptoms during or after your exam. Our staff and physicians are prepared should any type of emergency situation occur.
Preparing for a Breast MRI Exam
Prior to your scan, you will be asked to remove all metal or electronic objects from your body. These can interfere with the magnetic field and can be very dangerous if taken into the exam room. These can include:
- Watches or jewelry
- Cell phones or PDAs
What to Expect During a Breast MRI Exam
For the exam, you will be asked to lie on a movable table which will be moved into the MRI scanner machine. During the scan the machine will make thumping and tapping sounds. This is a normal and you will be given earplugs to help block the noise. You may wish to listen to music during your scan, your technologist can arrange this.
Some patients may feel anxious due to the confining nature of the MRI scanner. If you feel this way, talk to your doctor. They may feel it necessary to prescribe a sedative prior to your exam to help you relax.
During the scan you will be closely monitored and you will have a microphone that will allow you to talk with the technologist at all times.
A radiologist will review your exam images and report the findings to your doctor. Your doctor will then discuss the findings and next steps with you.