Breast MRI: A Patient’s Guide

So your doctor has ordered a breast MRI. Why? And what can you expect on the day of your appointment?

First off, take a deep breath. MRIs of the breast are a common diagnostic procedure, and many women find them more comfortable than the more familiar mammogram. We’ll start with a bit of good news: Breast MRIs usually don’t require breast compression.

There are a few common reasons doctors may order an MRI of the breast, but remember that every case is unique. Talk to your health care provider if you have any questions. In the meantime, here are some of the reasons physicians use this important diagnostic tool, along with a few things you can expect on the day of your procedure.

Common Medical Uses of Breast MRI Scans

Physicians generally don’t choose between mammograms, ultrasounds, and MRI scans of the breast; they often use them in tandem to obtain the greatest combination of images in order to diagnose a condition. Typically, your doctor will ask for a breast MRI if:

  1. A mammogram shows an abnormality, but the image isn’t quite clear enough to make a diagnosis.This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, your health care team may be evaluating abnormal signs on a mammogram to decide whether a biopsy is necessary. It’s just another step in the diagnostic process.
  2. You have a high risk of developing breast cancer.MRI scans generally show much more detail in the breast than mammograms. This isn’t always a good thing; breast MRI screening for cancer has been shown to lead to more false positives, which can in turn encourage unnecessary and invasive medical procedures.Typically, radiologists recommend MRI scans along with mammograms for women with a family history of breast cancer, or for women with certain gene mutations. For most women, yearly mammograms between the ages of 45 and 54 should be enough, according to the American Cancer Society.
  3. You have a diagnosis of breast cancer, or have had a lumpectomy.Once your physician diagnoses breast cancer, radiologists may use MRI scans to further evaluate the progression of the disease. They might also choose this type of imaging if you’ve been treated with chemotherapy.
  4. Doctors suspect that a silicone breast implant has ruptured.Breast MRI typically gives the greatest certainty to radiologists when physicians suspect a breast implant may have broken. The clarity of the image is more useful to doctors than that of a mammogram or ultrasound, which is usually a simple procedure involving an IV line.

What to Expect When You Get an MRI of the Breast

First, as always, talk to your doctor. They can help you prepare. They might ask you to avoid eating or drinking for some time before the procedure. They might also tell you you’ll be injected with a contrast agent to create a clearer image.

As with any MRI scan, be sure to remove any and all metal before attending your appointment. Many imaging centers offer gowns and lockers to ensure a metal-free procedure. Be sure to give your technologist a full list of any medical implants you might have, including surgical staples, ports, or pacemakers.

During the actual scan, you will lie face-down on a special bed, with openings to keep your breasts comfortable. You will enter the MRI bore, unless you’re using an open MRI, and the scan will commence. Typically, you’ll be in and out of the imaging facility in less than two hours.

To learn more about breast MRI scans, or to make an appointment, call at 888-322-7785. Our compassionate staff is always willing to help alleviate your concerns and prepare you for a quick, comfortable, and high-quality imaging experience.


American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer.Cancer. American Cancer Society, n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2017.

Breast MRI for Screening.BreastCancer., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2017.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – Breast.RadiologyInfo. Radiological Society of North America, n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2017.