Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive test that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of breast tissue and other internal structures. This imaging procedure may be recommended for screening or diagnostic purposes.
What Can a Breast MRI Scan Diagnose?Breast magnetic resonance imaging is primarily used to evaluate breast tissue for visible signs of cancer if a lump or another irregularity was found during a routine mammogram or ultrasound. It may also be the preferred screening method for women with a high risk of developing breast cancer. In other cases, breast MRI is used to assess the extent of cancer within the breast following a diagnosis, or to see if a silicone breast implant is leaking or has ruptured.
What Does a Breast MRI Scan Entail?
Breast magnetic resonance imaging is a straightforward procedure—here’s how it works:
- The patient lies face-down on a special platform with an opening to accommodate breasts.
- MRI technology that is built into the platform captures images of the patient’s breasts.
- Throughout the scan, the patient is told to relax and stay very still. Moving or tensing muscles can result in unclear images.
- The MRI technician controls the scan from another room, although the patient is able to speak with the technician over an intercom.
If an MRI scan is performed with the goal of detecting breast cancer, contrast material will be administered intravenously to help outline abnormalities within breast tissue. Following the scan, the IV is removed and the images are checked by the technician to see if they are clear enough for evaluation.
What Should I Expect During a Breast MRI Scan?
A breast magnetic resonance imaging scan is a painless, outpatient procedure that typically lasts around 45 to 60 minutes. If you are uncomfortable in tight or enclosed spaces, it’s a good idea to communicate this with your MRI technician prior to the scan—some women find it helpful to take a mild sedative beforehand.
The risks associated with breast MRI are minimal, as this scan does not use iodizing radiation. However, it’s important to leave all jewelry and other metal accessories at home. Metal objects can disrupt the magnetic field used during the procedure. Let your physician and MRI technician know beforehand if you have a metal implant or another device in your body.
Tampa General Hospital features a diverse, multidisciplinary team of breast health specialists who provide comprehensive care—including breast MRI and other diagnostic tests—in a state-of-the-art facility.