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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Breast

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast is an imaging test that uses strong magnets and radio waves to form pictures of the inside of the breast. It also creates images of the tissues that surround the breast. Breast MRI is used to check for problems, such as a leaking breast implant or a suspicious lump or mass. It can also be used to help determine if breast cancer is present and aid in diagnosis and management. Most MRI tests take 30 to 60 minutes. Depending on the type of MRI you are having, the test may take longer. Give yourself extra time to check in. 

Woman is lying face down on MRI table. Table is ready to go into MRI tube. Healthcare provider is standing beside woman.
During a breast MRI, you lie face down on a platform that slides into a tubelike machine called a scanner.

Before your test

  • You may need to stop eating or drinking before the test. Each health care facility has its own guidelines on this. It also depends on the type of exam you are having. Ask your health care provider if you should stop eating or drinking before the test.

  • Ask your provider if you should stop taking any medicine before the test.

  • Follow your normal daily routine unless your provider tells you otherwise.

  • You’ll be asked to remove your watch, hearing aids, credit cards, pens, eyeglasses, and other metal objects.

  • You may be asked to remove your makeup. Makeup may contain some metal.

MRI uses strong magnets. Metal is affected by magnets and can distort the image. The magnet used in MRI can cause metal objects in your body to move. If you have a metal implant, you may not be able to have an MRI unless the implant is certified as MRI safe. People with these implants should not have an MRI:

  • Ear (cochlear) implants

  • Certain clips used for brain aneurysms

  • Certain metal coils put in blood vessels

  • Most defibrillators

  • Most pacemakers

The radiologist or technologist may ask you if you:

  • Have had stereotactic breast biopsy

  • Have a pacemaker

  • Have an artificial body part (prosthesis)

  • Have metal rods, screws, plates, or splinters in your body

  • Wear a medicated adhesive patch

  • Have tattoos or body piercings. Some tattoo inks contain metal.

  • Have implanted nerve stimulators or drug-infusion ports

  • Work with metal

  • Have braces. You must remove any dental work.

  • Have a bullet or other metal in your body

Tell the radiologist or technologist if you:

  • Are allergic to X-ray dye (contrast medium), iodine, shellfish, or any medicines

  • Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant

  • Are afraid of small, enclosed spaces (claustrophobic)

  • Have any serious health problems. This includes kidney disease or a liver transplant. You may not be able to have the contrast material used for MRI.

  • Have had previous surgeries

  • Are breastfeeding

During your test

  • You may be asked to wear a hospital gown.

  • You may be given earplugs to wear if you desire.

  • You may be injected with contrast. This is a special dye that makes the MRI image sharp.

  • You’ll lie on a platform that slides into a tubelike machine called a scanner. You’ll be on your stomach with your breasts placed through openings in the platform.

  • Remain as still as you can while the camera takes the pictures. This will ensure the best images.

After your test

  • You can get back to normal activities right away.

  • If you were given contrast, it will pass naturally through your body within a day.

  • Drink lots of water so that the dye passes quickly out of your body.

Getting your results

Your health care provider will discuss the test results with you during a follow-up appointment or over the phone.

Online Medical Reviewer: Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 12/11/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.