Breast MRI

(Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Breast)


A breast MRI scan uses magnetic waves and computers to make pictures of the breast. It can make 2- and 3-dimensional pictures.

Reasons for Test

This test can be used to:

  • Assess breast abnormalities seen on a mammogram
  • Find breast changes in people 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

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as a reaction to the contrast material used to take clearer pictures. Kidney or liver problems may make it harder for the body to get rid of the material.

Pregnant women should talk to their doctors about the risks of having an MRI scan.

What to Expect

Prior to test

The staff may meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia that may be used
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the scan
  • Whether you have something in or on your body that would cause problems with an MRI, such as a medical device, joint replacement, or jewelry
  • Whether you need a ride to and from the scan
  • Tests that will need to be done before the scan, such as an x-ray to check for metal objects in the body
  • Timing the test between days 5 and 15 of the menstrual cycle when the breast tissue is less dense


The doctor may give a sedative to certain people. They will feel relaxed.

Description of the Test

The MRI machine makes a loud banging noise. You may be given ear plugs or headphones before the scan.

A contrast material may be injected into your hand or arm. You will lie face down on a sliding table. Your breasts will hang into cushioned openings. Monitors may be used to track your pulse, heart rate, and breathing. The table will slide into a narrow, enclosed tube.

The technician will leave the room. You will be given directions through an intercom. You can reply through the intercom. The pictures will be taken. You will exit the machine. Any IV needles used will be removed.

How Long Will It Take?

60 to 90 minutes

Will It Hurt?

The exam is painless.


The images will be studied. A report will be sent to your doctor. Your doctor will talk to you about the results and any further tests or treatment.

Call Your Doctor

Call the doctor if you have:

  • Light-headedness
  • Any allergic symptoms, such as a rash or swelling if contrast material was used
  • Problems urinating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Worsening of symptoms

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


American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute


Canadian Breast Cancer Network
Canadian Cancer Society


Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed October 16, 2020.
Breast MRI. University of California at San Francisco website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 16, 2020.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—breast. Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 16, 2020.
Senkus E, Kyriakides S, et al. Primary breast cancer: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Ann Oncol. 2015 Sep;26 Suppl 5:v8-30.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Elliot M. Levine, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 4/27/2021

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