Quick Facts On MRI

I frequently get asked what MRI technology is, how it works, and under what circumstances it should be considered. Here are some quick facts on MRI:

What is an MRI?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) combines radio waves and a strong magnetic field (not radiation) to produce three dimensional images of the breast. A woman lies face-down on a table, with both breasts falling through an opening in the table (this allows more breast tissue to be seen than when lying face-up).

Image via Wikipedia

The table then moves the patient in and out of a tube which generates images of the breasts. Contrast dye (gadolinium) injected into a patient’s vein highlights abnormalities in the breast based on blood flow patterns.  Abnormalities appear brighter than the background breast tissue and allow the radiologist to study these areas more closely.  The exam takes about 45 minutes, and can be difficult for claustrophobic patients.  Also, those with non-titanium metal in their bodies cannot have an MRI.

Who should get an MRI?

There are many circumstances under which an MRI should be considered. For instance, newly diagnosed cancer patients should generally get an MRI to evaluate the extent of disease in the affected breast, as well as to check for cancer in the opposite breast. Also, known BRCA carriers and patients with a lifetime breast cancer risk exceeding 20% are often candidates for an MRI. Other reasons to get an MRI can include an abnormal mammogram or breast ultrasound with MRI recommended by a radiologist, a history of radiation to the chest before age 30, a suspicion of leaking silicone implants, or other indications determined by a physician.

Shouldn’t everyone get an MRI?

Screening MRIs, meant to evaluate healthy tissue for hidden cancers, are not currently recommended for normal risk women.  Mammograms remain the gold standard for screening women at average risk for developing breast cancer.



  • Melissa

    I get an annual MRI and a digital mammogram. So every 6 months I am being examed by one or the other along with my regular exams by my doctors. The MRI is nothing compared to loosing a loved one. I lost my mother to breast cancer 3 years ago. I have an aunt (survived 20 years) and a cousin who got it at 32 and is surviving at the age of 38 but the cancer has returned. I have 2 sisters and 4 little nieces. My sisters and I feel its is worth getting the screenings. I reccomend for your piece of mind spending the money if you have it. If you have dense breasts, most insurances will cover at least part of it. My insurance covered 80%. Do not go to a hospital to get your MRI. It will cost you 3X's the amount. Go to an outside Imaging company but make sure that the MRI machines are apples to apples. Just like you are shopping for a car check it out. I hope this helps someone. Your life is worth it!

  • pecker556

    My Dad maintins these machines. He started out graduating from the elertconics program at dunwoody in 1975, then secured a jiob in the typewriter shop at the Mayo Clinic fixing type writers, the in the early ’80s when the MRi was coming online, he took advantage of the oppurtunity and became one of the 1st service techs for them. now he is a Lead supervisor over the MRI maintenance group at Mayo.