What is breast MRI?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is an advanced, state of-the-art medical imaging method. MRI uses a powerful but harmless magnetic field and radiowaves to produce detailed images of specific body structures and organs. MRI scans pose minimal risks to most patients if safety guidelines are followed.
How long does it take?
The average Breast MRI exam takes about 30 to 45 minutes.
How should I prepare?
There is no pre-exam preparation—you may eat and drink as you normally would and take medications as you normally would.
What should I wear to my appointment?
Please dress comfortably— sweatpants and sneakers are perfect! It is important to not wear clothes with metal zippers, buttons or snaps; no metal is allowed in the MRI exam room. Safety pins, straight pins, metal hair pins and all jewelry must be removed before entering the room. If you have a ring (such as a wedding band) or other jewelry that cannot be removed, we will test it for magnetic attraction before you may enter the
What can I expect during the exam?
Breast MRI is a relatively comfortable and easy exam. You will be asked to lie on your stomach on a cushioned bed. Your breasts will be positioned within a padded cutout on the bed. The bed will move into the magnet for the exam and you will hear a muffled thumping sound that will last for several minutes. The most important thing you can do to make sure your exam is successful is to hold as still as you can throughout the procedure. Most breast MRI exams require an injection of a contrast agent called gadolinium. An intravenous catheter (I.V.) for this injection will be placed in your arm before you lie on the bed. Please tell us if you have ever had an allergic reaction to MRI contrast in the past.
What about implants and MRI?
Breast MRI is sometimes used to image silicone breast implants. If you have breast implants, it is important that you tell the technologist when she calls you prior to your exam. We will also need to know if your implants are filled with saline, silicone or oil, or a combination of these. In addition, we need to know if the implant has a polyvinyl chloride sponge covering. Please get this information from your plastic surgeon’s office prior to your MRI exam.
Should I have a screening breast MRI?
The American Cancer Society has three recommendations that apply to all women regarding the early detection of breast cancer: Beginning at age 40, have a yearly mammogram, an annual clinical breast exam performed by your doctor, and be familiar with your own breasts and recognize any changes. Women who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer now have an additional screening test to help them find breast cancers early: Breast MRI.
Annual Screening Breast MRI is not for everyone, but it is recommended for:
women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation,
women who have a first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, and have not had genetic testing themselves,
women who have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of 20% to 25% or greater, according to risk assessment tools that are based mainly on family history,
women who have had radiation therapy to the chest when they were between the ages of 10 and 30 years, and
women who have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome, or have one of these syndromes in first-degree relatives
Women at moderately increased risk should talk with their doctor about whether they should have yearly Screening Breast MRI. These women include those who:
have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of 15% to 20%, according to risk assessment tools that are based mainly on family history
have a personal history of breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH), or atypical lobular hyperplasia (ALH)
have extremely dense breasts or unevenly dense breasts when viewed by mammograms
For most women at high risk, screening with MRI and mammograms should begin between 25 - 30 years of age and continue for as long as a woman is in good health.
This page is intended as an educational resource only. It is not a substitute for professional care. Please see your physician if you have any concerns about your own health.
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