Women’s Imaging: Breast MRI
What is a breast MRI?
Breast MRI is the most sensitive test available to detect many types of breast cancer. Like with mammography, it can be both screening and diagnostic in nature. Unlike mammography, the test does not require breast compression and there is no radiation exposure. In some cases, a special “coil” will be used against the patient to ensure the best possible image quality.
What is it used for?
For breast screening, MRI should not replace a mammogram; it is an excellent adjunctive test for women at high risk (greater than 20% lifetime risk) because its sensitivity can identify abnormalities in breast tissue that may not be visible on a mammogram or an ultrasound test. In addition, women who are pregnant, women with certain breast implants, and women who must avoid radiation exposure can use breast MRI as a screening test when mammography is not an option.
Breast MRI is also used in a diagnostic capacity, as well as for pre-surgical planning when surgery to remove a tumor becomes necessary. It may also be used to monitor a patient’s treatment progress.
What should I expect during a breast MRI?
Once inside the MRI suite, you will lie face-down on a padded table. The coil that detects the magnetic signals from the MRI will be beneath your breasts. After positioning you, the technologist will instruct you from a two-way intercom system, and the table will slide into the MRI machine. You will be asked to breathe normally but lie as still as possible.
The MRI machine will make a loud tapping noise as it scans you. Earplugs or earphones with music are available for your comfort. The test typically takes between 30 minutes and one hour.
How do I prepare for a breast MRI?
You may eat normally and take medications as required on the day of your breast MRI. Because of the danger of metal objects inside a powerful magnet, please do not wear an underwire bra, or any clothing with metal fasteners or zippers. If needed, a gown will be available for your use.
Please inform us if you have any implanted metal devices, such as a pacemaker or aneurysm clip.