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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Breast


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio waves to make pictures of the breast.

The radiologist may discuss the results of the MRI with you right after the test. Complete results are usually available to your doctor in 1 to 2 days.

An MRI scan can sometimes find a problem in a breast, even when the size and shape of the breast looks normal.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast

The breast tissue looks normal in size, shape, and appearance.

No solid masses are present.

A breast implant is intact.

No signs of inflammation or infection are present.


Solid masses are present.

Signs of infection or inflammation are present.

A breast implant is ruptured.

Underarm lymph nodes do not look normal.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • Pregnancy. An MRI test usually is not done during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, an ultrasound test may be done instead.
  • Medical devices that have metal, such as a pacemaker or an ICD. These devices may not function properly or can cause problems during an MRI scan.
  • Other types of metal, such as surgical clips. If these will interfere with a breast MRI, the test will not be done.
  • Inability to remain still during the test.
  • Being very overweight. This may affect your ability to fit into the opening of some standard MRI machines.

What To Think About

  • Abnormal findings on a breast MRI often are not cancer. If the MRI has an abnormal result, your doctor will do other testing to find out if the problem is serious. This may involve doing an ultrasound test or a biopsy, or both.
  • Sometimes your MRI test results may be different because you were tested at a different medical center or earlier test results are not available to compare to the new test findings.
  • While MRI is a safe and valuable test for looking at your breast, it is much more costly than other methods, and it may not be available in your area.

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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