Skip to content

    Breast Cancer Health Center

    Select An Article

    Breast Cancer and MRI

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a test that should not be used to distinguish between benign (noncancerous) and malignant (cancerous) areas, in lieu of a breast biopsy. Due to false positive results, performing this test may increase the number of breastbiopsies that need to be performed. It is not appropriate to utilize breast MRI to evaluate a suspicious breast mass, or to follow these breast masses over time. Although MRI may detect tumors in dense breast tissue, the presence of dense breast tissue is not a reason to have a breast MRI scan. Breast MRI scanning cannot detect tiny specks of calcium (known as microcalcifications), which account for half of the cancers detected by mammography.

    Talk to your doctor about whether you should have an MRI of the breasts.

    Recommended Related to Breast Cancer

    Me and the Girls: Jennifer Mukai

    WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti interviewed breast cancer survivors as part of a series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The series, called "Me & the Girls," explores the personal stories of these women after they were diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer survivor Jennifer Mukai, 43, lives in the Seattle area. Mukai got her first-ever mammogram in May 2009, right after turning 43. That mammogram led to her breast cancer diagnosis. Mammograms don't determine whether someone...

    Read the Me and the Girls: Jennifer Mukai article > >

    Is the Breast MRI Test Safe?

    A breast MRI is safe. The test poses no risk to the average patient if appropriate safety guidelines are followed.

    People who have had heart surgery and people with the following medical devices can be safely examined with MRI:

    • Surgical clips or sutures
    • Artificial joints
    • Staples
    • Most heart valve replacements
    • Disconnected medication pumps
    • Vena cava filters
    • Brain shunt tubes for hydrocephalus

    Some conditions may make an MRI exam inadvisable. Tell your doctor if you have any of the following conditions:

    • Heart pacemaker
    • Cerebral aneurysm clip (metal clip on a blood vessel in the brain)
    • Implanted insulin pump (for treatment of diabetes), narcotics pump (for pain medication), or implanted nerve stimulators ("TENS") for back pain
    • Metal in the eye or eye socket
    • Cochlear (ear) implant for hearing impairment
    • Implanted spine stabilization rods
    • Severe lung disease
    • Uncontrolled gastroesophageal reflux (a condition causing severe heartburn)

    In addition, tell your doctor if you:

    • Are pregnant
    • Weigh more than 300 pounds
    • Are not able to lie on your back for 30 to 60 minutes
    • Have claustrophobia (fear of closed or narrow spaces)

    How Long Is the Breast MRI Test?

    Allow 1 1/2 hours for your breast MRI exam. In most cases, the procedure takes 45 to 60 minutes, during which time several dozen images are obtained.

    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Breast Cancer Overview
    From mammograms to living after treatment.
    Dealing with breast cancer
    Get answers to your questions.
     
    woman having mammogram
    The 3 latest tips to know.
    woman undergoing breast cancer test
    Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
     
    Resolved To Quit Smoking
    VIDEO
    Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
    Article
     
    Woman getting mammogram
    Article
    Screening Tests for Women
    Article
     
    serious woman
    Article
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    QUIZ
     
    what is your cancer risk
    Article
    breast cancer survivors
    Article