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
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.
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