Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast is an important new approach in which to diagnose and characterize abnormalities in the breasts. Because images produced by MRI are very detailed, this technology can detect small changes or abnormalities.
Breast MRI frequently can be used to determine whether or not an area is cancerous, thereby avoiding unnecessary biopsies; it is especially helpful for evaluation of very dense breasts. This exam is also used to check for leakage or rupture of breast implants.
MRI does not take the place of traditional breast cancer screening methods: annual physical exams by your health-care provider, monthly breast self-examinations, and annual screening mammography for women who are 40 years of age or more.
What to Expect
You will lie on your stomach on a table that moves within a large magnet. Both ends of the magnet are open, and you will be able to communicate with the technologist through a two-way intercom. Your chest will be elevated somewhat, on a padded “coil,” which sends and receives the radio frequency waves used in this technology. Your breasts will hang freely in the coil, and the female technologist will make you as comfortable as possible.
During the scan, as with all MRI exams, you will hear various noises, ranging from a buzzing to a loud knocking. You will be given earplugs to diminish the noise.
Because an MRI exam can take images or “slices” from various angles, several sequences or sets of images will be taken. Each sequence will last from one to 10 minutes, and the technologist will inform you before the scanning noise begins. The total exam time for a scan can range from 30 to 60 minutes. You must lie very still during each sequence, in order to produce clear diagnostic images.
Depending on your symptoms or prior medical history, you may be given an intravenous contrast agent for your scan. The technologist will explain this procedure to you if it is necessary.
If you have prior studies outside of Hoag for a comparison, please bring them to your appointment.