Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRIs may be recommended for those patients that have been deemed to be at higher risk due to past incidences of the disease, genetic pre-disposition or family history of breast cancer. They are generally prescribed as a complement to mammograms, as both tests have the potential to miss detecting some diseases for which the other is better suited. MRIs are a higher resolution procedure, meaning that they provide a better picture of the patient’s breasts, however this increased resolution comes at a higher cost of both money and time, as the procedure generally takes about an hour and a half compared to 20 minutes for a mammogram. In an MRI, the patient generally lies on their back on a table, which is slid into the MRI machine before using magnets and radiowaves to create an image of the target area of the body. As in ultrasound, no x-rays or radiation are used to obtain these images. Due to the reliance of this procedure on high powered magnets, patients must be sure to remove all jewelry and other metal personal effects before beginning the procedure. It is also very important to remain perfectly still throughout the procedure, as even the smallest of movements can offset the readings between frames and disrupt the clarity of the overall reading. In breast MRIs, the patient lies on their stomach with their breasts freely hanging in two breast coils, which assist in creating the necessary images.

During the procedure, the patient is expected to remain still within a somewhat enclosed environment, and as such should inform the technician if they are not completely comfortable before beginning the procedure or if they are or could become claustrophobic. In these cases, sedation may be a viable option in order to relax the patient and obtain a usable MRI. Additionally, if the patient is sensitive to loud noises, they should request earplugs before beginning the procedure, as the MRI machine creates a humming noise while recording images. Once the procedure is complete, the MRI is sent to a radiologist who can analyze the images and determine if there are any lumps present in either breast. This information will be sent back to the patient’s primary breast specialist to discuss the results at a later date. WNY Breast Health refers all MRI patients to Western New York MRI.