Your doctor has ordered a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam of your breasts. MRI uses a strong magnet and radio waves, rather than x-rays, to produce detailed pictures of the inside of the breast.

Why do I need a breast MRI?

Patients may get a breast MRI for many reasons:

  • Elevated risk screening – including patients with a strong family history of breast cancer, a genetic mutation increasing risk for developing breast cancer, a history of radiation to the chest, and/or dense breasts.

  • Known cancer – to figure out the size of the known cancer and if there are any other problems in either breast that we need to look at further.

  • To see how breast cancer has responded to chemotherapy.

  • To evaluate if silicone breast implants are intact.

How does breast MRI show problems in the breast?

Breast MRI finds abnormal spots that take up contrast (dye). We can see these spots even in a breast with very dense tissue.

Before Your Breast MRI

We will ask if you have any metal in your body or implanted devices. The magnet used is very strong and patients with some types of metal or medical devices cannot have an MRI. Our staff will help figure that out. It is important to answer these questions honestly to the best of your knowledge.

Tell the MRI staff if you have any of these items in your body:

  • Pacemaker

  • Artificial heart valve

  • Implanted defibrillator

  • Brain aneurysm clips

  • Medicine patches

  • Implantable pump

  • Neurostimulator or TENS

  • Eye or ear implant

  • Hearing aids

  • IUD

  • Metallic implant

  • Artificial body parts

  • Stent, coil, filter

  • Breast or penile implants

  • Implanted shunts

If you do have any of the implanted devices above, tell staff the:

  • Date the device was placed.

  • Hospital and doctor who placed it.

  • Make or model number of the device (you may have a wallet card with the make and model. If you don’t, we can often get this from the hospital where it was placed.)

Also tell the staff:

  • If you have any problems lying on stomach and holding still for about 30 minutes.

  • If you have ever done metal grinding/welding, or if you have ever seen a doctor about metal in your eyes.

  • Have any metal in your body from an accident, gunshot, or military service wound.

We will also review your medicines and allergies. If you are afraid of small spaces (also known as claustrophobia), talk to your doctor. They can give you some medicine that will help you relax, but you will need someone to drive you home.

The Day of Your Breast MRI

Do not eat anything 4 hours before your MRI. This will help prevent nausea related to the contrast (dye). If you are diabetic or need to eat, please call your doctor before your MRI to discuss.

We will ask you to change into a gown. Make sure that you remove all metal items (jewelry, zippers, hair clips, etc). There is a secure locker for your clothes and other items.

We will start an IV to give you contrast during the scan. Contrast (dye) will not be given if the MRI is only done to check if your implants are intact.

During the Exam

You will lie face down on a table with a slight incline and openings to position your breasts to take images with the MRI scanner.

5939 Image

You will go into the MRI tube feet first. The table will move into the MRI machine.

You will need to be very still during the exam. The MRI tech doing the MRI will talk to you during the scan to let you know what to expect. You will also have a call button to press if you need to talk to someone.

As we take the images, you will hear loud knocking and buzzing sounds which are normal. We have you wear ear plugs because the noises can be loud.

We will inject the dye into the IV during the scan. You may feel coolness at the IV site and in the arm, as well as flushing and warmth in your body. This is normal.

After the Exam

After the exam, we will remove the IV from your arm and you can change into your clothes and go home. A radiologist, a doctor specially trained to interpret breast MRI exams, will look at the images and write a report for you and your provider.

MRI Location

UW Hospital

600 Highland Ave
Madison, WI 53792
Take the Atrium elevators to 3rd floor Check in at the G3/3 reception desk
Call (608) 263-9729 to cancel or schedule appointments

1 South Park Medical Center

1 South Park Street
Madison, WI 53715
Call (608) 287-2050 to cancel or schedule appointments

Science Dr Medical Center

621 Science Drive
Madison, WI 53711
Check in at 2nd Floor Radiology
Call (608) 263-9729 to cancel or schedule appointments