MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. MRI uses a strong magnet rather than x-rays to produce detailed pictures of the inside of the breast. It provides your doctor pictures of your breast in three dimensions. These scans are painless.
A mammogram is still the best screening tool to detect breast abnormalities. Yet, there are some problems that may be seen on breast MRI. Sometimes, a radiologist or doctor will recommend breast MRI.
When do UW radiologists and doctors decide to recommend breast MRI?
- Is there really an abnormality in the breast or is this a “false shadow?”
- To confirm the correct place for biopsy not seen with other imaging.
- Known cancer – to help show exact size and location and assess if there are any other areas of concern.
- Postoperative scar – to decide if it is a scar or a tumor.
- High risk screening – strong family history, breast cancer gene carriers.
- To evaluate breast implants.
How do I prepare for a Breast MRI?
A nurse will complete a series of questins asking if you have any metal in your body or any implanted devices. It is important to know this information as the amgnetic field used is very strong and could cause injury. The nurse will also review you medicine and allergies. You will be asked if you have a problem being in small, enclosed spaces. A sedative may be used if needed. You will be asked about your menstrual cycle.
- If you are pre-menopausal you must be in the 2nd week of your cycle. Hormone changes at other times during the menstrual cycle can effect how breast tissue looks with MRI.
- If you are post-menopausal and taking hormone replacements, you must stop these for at least 3 weeks.
- If you have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer you may be scanned, no matter where you are in your cycle or if you are taking hormones.
What it is like to get a Breast MRI?
An MRI scanner is a long tube with an opening about 21-22 inches. You will be asked to change into a gown and make sure that all metal items (jewelry, zippers, hair clips, etc) are removed. You will have an IV started. A dye (contrast)is given into the IV during the scan. This dye helps produce stronger, clearer images. It also highlights any abnormalities.
On the day of the biopsy, it is recommended that you not eat anything 2 hours before your procedure. This will help prevent possible nausea and vomiting related to I.V. contrast (dye). If you are diabetic or otherwise may need to eat, please call MRI Scheduling at (608) 263- 5655 prior to your procedure to discuss. If you will be taking a sedative medicine, you will need a driver to take you home.
You will lie face down on the table on a slight incline. Your breasts will be placed into a special coil on the table. This coil is used to make the image. You will be placed into the MRI tube feet first. The table will move into the MRI machine and you will be completely inside the machine. You will need to be very still during the exam. You will be given a call light to press if you are having difficulties.
As the images are made, you will hear a series of loud knocking and buzzing sounds. The dye will be injected into the IV at a specific time during the scan. You may feel coolness at the IV site and in the arm. This is normal. The images taken during the MRI are looked at on a special computer. This exam takes approximately 45 – 60 minutes. After the exam is completed, the IV will be remove from your arm and you can change into your clothes and leave.
How does Breast MRI pick up abnormalities?
As abnormalities start growing, they may give off chemical factors. The factors cause small blood vessels to grow. Breast MRI finds the changes by making these small vessels visible. This can be done even in a breast with very dense tissue.
You may want to check your health insurance to make sure the Breast MRI is covered.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 05/31/2012
Copyright © 05/31/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5939
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