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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Breast

How It Is Done

An MRI of the breast is usually done by an MRI technologist. A radiologist usually studies the pictures to look for problems. But some other types of doctors may also do this.

Before the test

You will need to remove all metal objects (such as hearing aids, dentures, jewelry, watches, and hairpins) from your body because these objects may be attracted to the powerful magnet used for the test. If there is a possibility that you have metal fragments in your eyes from an accident or a surgery or because you work around metal, an X-ray or a CT scan will be done before the MRI to see if any metal is present. An X-ray or CT may also be done if there is a concern about metal fragments in your head or spine.

You will need to take off your clothes above the waist. You will be given a gown to cover your shoulders during the test. Empty your pockets of any coins and cards (such as credit cards or ATM cards) with scanner strips on them because the MRI magnet may erase the information on the cards.

During the test

During the test, you will lie on your stomach on a table that is part of the MRI scanner. Straps may be used to help keep your body in the best position. The table will slide into the machine part that holds the magnet. A device called a coil may be placed over or wrapped around the breast area.

Inside the scanner, you will hear a fan and feel air moving. You may also hear tapping or thumping noises as the MRI scans are taken. You may be given earplugs or headphones with music to lessen the noise. It is very important to hold completely still while the scan is being done. Otherwise, repeat scans may be needed. Also, you may be asked to hold your breath for short periods of time.

During the test, you may be alone in the scanner room. But the technologist will watch you through a window, and you will be able to talk to him or her through a speaker.

If contrast material is needed, the technologist will put it in a vein (intravenous, or IV) in your arm. The contrast material may be given over 1 to 2 minutes. Then more MRI scans are taken.

An MRI test usually takes 30 to 60 minutes but may last as long as 2 hours.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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