Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a simple, painless examination that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to see internal organs and other soft tissue without the use of X-rays. MRI has no known side effects.
Aided by the speed and accuracy of a computer, MRI provides extremely detailed images of body anatomy. The strong magnetic field created by the MRI machine prepares molecules in the body to emit radio signals when exposed to prescribed radio waves. Molecules in abnormal cells produce different signals than those from normal cells, and the difference is used to create the MRI image.
Breast MRI is a non-invasive procedure that helps determine the presence of abnormal, potentially cancerous tissue. Each exam produces hundreds of images of the breast in several different views and with varied settings of the MRI machine. For all Breast MRI exams, with the exception of diagnosis of implant rupture, intravenous (IV) contrast is used to better evaluate the breast. The images captured by the MRI are then interpreted by a radiologist. Breast MRI is currently used only in specific circumstances and does not replace standard screening and diagnostic procedures (clinical exam, mammograms, and focused ultrasound).
Breast MRI exams are performed for the following conditions, among others:
- Recent diagnosis of breast cancer in high risk patients, to better characterize the extent of disease, and/or to determine presence of cancer elsewhere in the same breast or in the opposite breast.
- To assess for recurrence of disease in women with a history of breast cancer when mammography and/or ultrasound findings are questionable.
- To screen patients who are at high risk for breast cancer. Patients that have tested positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation (among others), have a strong family history of breast cancer (i.e. premenopausal, first degree relative with breast cancer), or a prior history of radiation treatment to the chest are considered high risk for breast cancer.
- To evaluate for possible breast implant rupture.
Rest assured that you and your physician will be provided with:
- The safest and most advanced technology.
- A comfortable, relaxed, and caring atmosphere.
- Expert medical consultation
A Very Important Note
You may not be able to undergo MRI if you have a pacemaker, inner ear implants, certain surgical clips or stents, or some other metal implants. Please notify the physician or technologist if you are unsure whether you have any of the above.
Please make child care arrangements or bring a family member to watch children during your MRI. Children may not be left unattended in the lobby.
Prior to the Exam
You will be asked to change into an examination gown. You will also be asked to leave any jewelry, keys, and other metallic items in a locked safe. Credit cards have a metallic strip that can be erased by the magnet, and shouldn’t be exposed to the exam room. You will be given the opportunity to use the bathroom so you will be as comfortable as possible for the duration of your exam.
Under most circumstances, no special diet, medication, or fasting are required before your MRI examination.
What to Expect During the Exam
Although MRI is the result of extremely complex technology, it is simple and easy for patients.
Your MRI exam will be performed in a room designed to prevent the strong magnetic field from extending beyond its walls and interference from outside radio waves. You will be continuously observed by specially trained staff that can communicate with you through an intercom system.
You will be asked to relax and remain as still as possible. Breast MRI requires that you lie on your stomach for roughly 30 minutes with both breasts surrounded by a receiver device, known as the breast coil. Women generally find the examination table comfortable. You will feel nothing unusual during the exam. The scanner makes a series of thumping sounds made by the radio wave transmitters, which are normal, and in no way harmful. Lavender and flax seed aromatherapy eye pillows are available to aid in relaxation, and music can also be provided. The exam takes about 45 minutes.
After the Exam
There are no restrictions. You may resume your normal diet and activity.
Obtaining Exam Results
Remember that the technologist is not trained to interpret the images from your exam. The radiologist will provide the interpretation to your physician, and your physician will then discuss the results with you. Be sure you clearly understand your exam results and their impact on your health. Please don’t hesitate to contact the facility where you had your exam with questions.
MRI Breast Biopsy
Please see the Breast Biopsy page for detailed information regarding MRI breast biopsies.