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 best
seen on breast MRI. Sometimes, a
radiologist or doctor will recommend breast
When do UW radiologists and doctors
decide to recommend breast MRI?
ξ Is there really an abnormality in the
breast or is this a “false shadow?”
ξ To confirm the correct place for
biopsy not seen with other imaging.
ξ Known cancer – to help show exact
size and location and access if there
are any other areas of concern.
ξ Postoperative scar – to decide if it is
a scar or a tumor.
ξ High risk screening – strong family
history, breast cancer gene carriers.
ξ To evaluate breast implants.
How do I prepare for a Breast MRI?
A nurse will complete a series of questions
asking if you have any metal in your body or
any implanted devices. It is important to
know this information as the magnetic field
used is very strong and could cause injury.
The nurse will also review your medicines
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.
ξ 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.
ξ If you are post-menopausal and
taking hormone replacements, you
must stop these for at least 3 weeks.
ξ 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
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
0BOn the day of the scan, 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 prior to your procedure to
discuss. If you will be taking a sedative,
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 any 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 finished, the IV
will be removed from your arm and you can
change into your clothes and leave.
How does Breast MRI pick up
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
Questions or Concerns
With any questions or concerns, please call
The Breast Center at (608)266-6400,
Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM.
After hours and weekends, call (608)262-
0486. This will give you the paging
operator. Ask to speak to the radiologist on
call. Give the operator your name and
phone number with the area code. The
doctor will call you back. For medical
emergencies, call 911.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 7/2017. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5939