Supporting women whose lives have been touched by breast cancer

MRI scan

PREPARATION: There is no preparation for a MRI scan. You may eat and drink as normal.

MRI’s may be ordered at some time in your treatment if your doctor wants to take a closer look at your internal anatomy. MRI machines use a very large magnet to align the hydrogen ions in your body and create pictures of your internal anatomy. MRI machines consist of a tunnel and you lie on a bed in the tunnel and have your pictures taken. MRI’s are very loud and most hospitals will give you earplugs. It sounds like someone is using a jack hammer in the same room as you.

WARNING: Due to the presence of a very powerful magnet inside the MRI machine, NO metal of any type is allowed into the scanning room. This includes people with pacemakers or those who have metal plates and screws inserted in their bodies. It is advisable to check with your physician if you have metal plates and screws or joint replacements using metal parts that have been put in many years ago. Now, all surgical plates and screws are titanium which doesn’t interfere with MRI scanning but if you have had surgical plates and screws put in along time ago, chances are they are made of steel and can’t go in the MRI. Please check if this applies to you.

You will be asked to get changed into a hospital gown and remove all metal on your body. This includes earrings, necklaces, body piercing, and glasses prior to entering the scanning room. When you enter the scanning room, you will lie on a bed and be given some ear plugs. You will then be moved up into position in the scanning tube. A sequence of pictures will be taken. Then it is possible for you to be taken out of the scanner and have a cannula inserted and then be injected with a gadolinium contrast agent. Then the sequence of pictures are repeated after the contrast agent has been administered. The scan may take 1-2 hours for each area they are looking at. For example, a chest MRI may take an hour and then they might give you contrast and repeat the pictures. So, the whole imaging time will be 2 hours. It is best for you to check with your MRI department prior to your scan time if you are concerned about the length of time you will be in the scanner.
Claustrophobic patients often have a hard time when being scanned. As a result, some departments will have the doctor give you a mild sedative so you will be comfortable while having your scan done. If you are given a mild sedative, you may need someone to drive you home. As always, if you have claustrophobia and are concerned with having your MRI, please call your dept ahead of your appt and see what they recommend.

What it's like to have an MRI Scan of the arm

What it's like to have an MRI Scan of the breast