DEFINITION: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast is an imaging test used to detect breast cancer and other abnormalities in the breast by generating detailed pictures of breast anatomy. Breast MRI is usually performed when your doctor needs more information after a mammogram, ultrasound or clinical breast exam has been completed. For some women who have a very high risk of breast cancer, breast MRI may be used as a screening tool for detecting breast cancer. MRI can also be used to detect ruptures and other defects in breast implants.

WHAT TO EXPECT: For your Breast MRI exam, you will be asked to change into a gown and to remove jewelry, hairpins, eyeglasses, watches, wigs, dentures, hearing aids and underwire bras, as these items are a safety concern while around our magnetic equipment.

You will then be asked to lie facedown on a padded scanning table. Your breasts will fit into a hollow depression in the table that aids the machine in detecting magnetic signals. The entire table will slide into the opening of the machine as images of your breast are acquired. A contrast agent (dye) may be injected through an intravenous (IV) line in your arm to enhance the appearance of tissues or blood vessels on the MRI pictures.

During the MRI scan, the internal part of the magnet produces repetitive tapping and other noises. Earplugs may be provided to help block the noise. You'll be instructed to breathe normally but to lie as still as possible, as movement can blur the resulting images. A technologist monitors you closely from another room and will be able to come to your assistance immediately, if needed.

HOW TO PREPARE: If you still have mentral periods, you must schedule your MRI between days seven and 14 of your menstrual cycle. Let the facility know where you are in your cycle so that optimal timing for the breast MRI can be arranged. Before an MRI exam, eat normally and continue to take your usual medications, unless otherwise instructed. If you are worried about feeling claustrophobic during the scan, talk to your doctor beforehand, as they may be able to prescribe you medication to help with your anxiety. We ask that you please bring copies of your mammogram images with you from previous exams at other facilities.

RESULTS: One of our specially trained radiologists will analyze the images from your scan and report any findings to your doctor. Your doctor will then discuss any important findings and next steps with you.