Supporting women whose lives have been touched by breast cancer


By bl

I was told to arrive 15 minutes before my appointment time to enable the radiographer to review the safety questionnaire that I was asked to complete and bring with me. The questionnaire had been sent with my appointment letter; I had to answer various health questions, whether I had any implants or cardiac pacemaker and if I had a previous MRI and where. The appointment letter told me not to wear jewellery or a watch, to wear loose clothing without zips or metal buttons, although hospital gowns were available and explained in general terms what would happen. I was told headphones would be provided as the scanner was very noisy and I could bring a CD of my choice if I wished.

When my name was called, I was shown to a cubicle and asked to remove all clothing above my waist and put the hospital gown on with the opening at the front. I was then taken through to the scanner.

It seemed much lighter and shorter than one I had been in before. I had to lay on the table on my back to begin with whilst they put an intravenous line into my arm. This was for a contrast agent to be administered during the scan. There was the usual sharp scratch as the needle went in and then I was told a narrow tube would be put into the vein. It was all quite painless. Tape was placed to hold it in place and a plastic ring put over my thumb on the same side so that no pressure was put on the tube whilst I turned over on to my front.

With the radiographer’s assistance I wiggled up the table to where there was a section that I can only describe as 2 parts of an egg box set into the table, in which my breasts had to dangle uncovered. My head dangled down on the other side of the ‘egg box compartment’ and was supported on wedges. It was a little uncomfortable where my breast bone rested on the divider between the compartments, but otherwise no problem. They were very large ‘egg boxes’ to accommodate all sizes. I had to keep my arms flat down by my sides and a set of headphones were placed over my ears. The table then slid into the tunnel, but as I was face down it didn’t bother me in the slightest. A buzzer was placed into my hand and I was told to press it if I needed to come out of the scanner or if there was a problem. My CD was put on and the radiographer went into the next room, where she could see me through a window, to start the scan.

The scanner is very noisy and I could not hear my CD above it so I would suggest taking music that is quite loud in with you. I opted for something quiet and calming thinking it would relax me, but I just could not hear it. It was not a continuous scan, but a series of probably 8 scans. The first was 3 minutes followed by one of 7 minutes, then 4 of approximately 2 minutes each. At several points the radiographer asked if I was OK and she always told me how long the next set of scans would be. The final 2 scans were with the contrast agent. I was told the contrast was going in and my arm would feel cold, which it did, right down to my wrist. This was followed by a 2 minute and 6 minute scan. Different scans made different noises and I passed the time making words out of the noises (like we used to as children when we went on a train). I had ‘barrow boy’, ‘oggy, oggy, oggy’ and ‘Alan Carr’! Don’t ask me where they came from; I haven’t a clue.

The scans took around 30 minutes and then the radiographer came back in the room and slid me back out of the tunnel. I had to turn over onto by back for the line to be taken out. A dressing was placed on my arm. I was given my CD and told I could get changed and go home.