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(Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Breast)


MRI scanning uses magnetic fields to make pictures of the inside of the body. A computer makes two- and three-dimensional pictures. MRI of the breast uses an MRI to assess breast tissue.

Reasons for Test

This test can be used to:

  • Assess breast abnormalities seen on mammography
  • Find breast abnormalities in women (and in some cases, men) with dense tissue, implants, or scar tissue
  • Examine breast implants
  • Look at scar tissue
  • Find out the progress of breast cancer treatment
  • Locate cysts or enlarged breast ducts
  • Look at lymph nodes near the breast
Breast Cysts
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Possible Complications

MRIs can be harmful if you have metal inside your body, such as joint replacements. Make sure your doctor knows of any internal metal before the test. Some people may also have an reaction to the contrast dye. Talk to your doctor about any allergies you have. Tell your doctor if you have liver or kidney problems. These may make it hard for your body to get rid of the contrast.

If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, talk to your doctor before the MRI scan about whether it is right for you.

What to Expect

Prior to test

Leading up to the test:

  • Try to plan the test between days 5 and 15 of your menstrual cycle. This is a time when the breast tissue is less dense.
  • If your doctor says you need a sedative:
    • Arrange for a ride home.
    • Take it one to two hours before the exam, or as advised.

When you arrive for the test:

  • You will be asked about your:
    • Medical and surgical history
    • Pregnancy history
    • Allergies
    • Other health problems that you may have—If your MRI involves contrast material, your doctor will ask about the health of your kidneys. There is a risk of health problems in people who have kidney disease.
  • You will be asked if you have something in your body that would cause problems with the MRI:
    • Pacemaker or implantable defibrillator
    • Neurostimulator
    • Ear implant
    • Metal in your eyes or in any other part of your body (Tell your doctor if your work involves metal filings or pieces.)
    • Implanted port device
    • Metal plate, pins, screws, or staples
    • Metal clips from aneurysm repair
    • Retained bullets
    • Any other large metal objects in your body (Tooth fillings and braces are usually fine.)
  • You will remove any metal objects, such as jewelry, hearing aids, glasses.
  • An x-ray may be taken to see if there are any metal objects in your body.

You may be:

  • Given earplugs or headphones to wear (The machine makes a loud banging noise.)
  • Allowed to have someone with you during the test

Description of the Test

You will lie face down on your stomach on a moveable bed. The bed will slide into a large, cylindrical magnet. Your breasts will hang into cushioned openings. You may be hooked up to monitors. They will track your pulse, heart, and breathing. The technician will be in a nearby room. You will be given directions through an intercom. A magnetic field will be produced to make three-dimensional pictures of your breast tissue. As this happens, you will hear loud banging noises.

Contrast dye may be used to make the pictures better. In this case, you will get an IV in your hand or arm. Contrast material will be given through the IV.

After the Test

You will need to wait until the pictures are studied. In some cases, the technician may need to take more pictures.

  • If you took a sedative, do not drive, use machinery, or make decisions until it wears off.
  • If you are breastfeeding and have contrast dye, you and your doctor should talk about when you should start breastfeeding again.

How Long Will It Take?

About 1-½ hours

Will It Hurt?



The pictures will be sent to a radiologist. Your doctor will get the report and talk to you about the results.

Call Your Doctor

The pictures will be sent to a radiologist. Your doctor will get the report and talk to you about the results.

  • Worsening of your symptoms
  • Any allergic or abnormal symptoms, like a rash or swelling if you were given contrast dye

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


American Cancer Society  https://www.cancer.org 

National Cancer Institute  https://www.cancer.gov 


Canadian Breast Cancer Network  https://www.cbcn.ca 

Canadian Cancer Society  https://www.cancer.ca 


Breast MRI. University of California at San Francisco website. Available at: http://www.radiology.ucsf.edu/patient-care/services/breast-mri. Accessed July 23, 2018.

Camp HJ. Controversies in breast MRI. Radiologica. 2010;52(suppl 1):26-29.

Heywang-Kobrunner SH, Viehweg P, Heinig A, Kuchler C. Contrast-enhanced MRI of the breast: Accuracy, value, controversies, solutions. Eur J Radiol. 1997;24(2):94-108.

Klostergaard J, Parga K, Raptis RG. Current and future applications of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to breast and ovarian cancer management. Puerto Rico Health Sciences J. 2010;29(3): 223-231.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—breast. Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=breastmr. Updated February 15, 2018. Accessed July 23, 2018.

Shinil K, Shah BS, Greatrex KV. Current role of magnetic resonance imaging in breast imaging: A primer for the primary care physician. J Am Board Fam Med. 2005;18(6):478-490.  

9/10/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116591/Prevention-of-contrast-induced-complications  : US Food and Drug Administration. New warnings required on use of gadolinium-based contrast agents. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm225286.htm. Updated April 19, 2013. Accessed May 28, 2015.

5/17/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114252/Routine-prenatal-care  : Patenaude Y, Pugash D, Lim K, et al. The use of magnetic resonance imaging in the obstetric patient. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2014;36(4):349-355.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kathleen A. Barry, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2018
  • Update Date: 07/24/2018