MRI Breast Imaging


Mercy Mt Shasta has MR imaging uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone and virtually all other internal body structures. The images can then be examined on a computer monitor.  MRI of the breast offers valuable information about many breast conditions that cannot be obtained by other imaging modalities, such as mammography or ultrasound. In certain situations, such as for women with a high risk of breast cancer, have a very strong family history of breast cancer or carry a hereditary breast cancer gene mutation, a breast MRI may be used with mammograms as a screening tool for detecting breast cancer.  Each exam produces hundreds of images of the breast, cross-sectional in all three directions, (side-to-side, top-to-bottom and front-to-back). A breast MRI is intended to be used in addition to a mammogram or another breast-imaging test — not as a replacement for a mammogram.

When Scheduling Your Exam - Patient Guide

For optimal image quality, please schedule your breast MRI seven to ten days after the first day of your menstrual cycle.

You may eat and drink a light meal before this exam. You may take your prescribed medication and drink plenty of water.

Our team considers several factors to ensure that your MR scan is safe. Please let us know before you schedule your study whether you are pregnant or nursing, and/or if you have any contraindicated metal objects or implanted devices. If you are on hormone replacement therapy or BCP, please consult your doctor about discontinuing the therapy for one month before the study.

Some patients become fearful or agitated in small, enclosed areas (claustrophobic) or experience discomfort when laying on their chest for 45 minutes. You will be asked to lay down   on your stomach for the MRI exam. The imaging physicians at Mercy Medical Mt. Shasta cannot prescribe such medications for you.

If you have received a mammogram at a different facility within the past two years, it is helpful to your evaluation to bring it with you at the time of your exam. You should be able to get a copy of your films by contacting the facility that performed the exam.

We want to make any time you may have to wait as pleasant as possible. Consider bringing your favorite magazine, book or music player to help you pass the time before the exam.

If your doctor gave you an order, please bring it with you.

When you schedule your exam, you will be given an arrival time and a scan time. Please arrive 15 minutes prior to your scheduled room time for registration and preparation before your scan.

You will be asked to change into a gown. Lockers are provided in the changing room for your valuables, although you may want to leave them at home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Breast MRI Scan an alternative to Mammography?

Breast MRI provides additional information to complement a mammogram. It is not an alternative or replacement for mammograms.

Breast MRI is not a replacement for standard screening and diagnostic procedures (clinical self-exams, mammograms, fine needle aspiration or biopsy).

What does a Breast MRI Scan show?

MRI has been shown to detect small breast cancers that are sometimes missed by mammography, and MRI can successfully image the dense breast (usually found in younger women) for underlying and unsuspected breast cancers. Breast implants may be evaluated faster, safer, and with less patient discomfort.

Cancer involving the margins of breast masses may be better visualized with Breast MRI. The extent of breast cancer may be underestimated with mammography. One in three women will have their surgical planning altered based upon the results of the Breast MRI Scan. Proper surgical planning should result in a better outcome for the patient.

The shape and vascular enhancement pattern of abnormalities can be analyzed. In very dense breasts, abnormalities may be more readily detected than by other imaging exams.

What if you are Breastfeeding or pregnant?

If you are breastfeeding, you may still have a breast MRI. The engorgement of the breast due to lactation does not adversely affect the diagnostic capability of breast MRI. A small amount of gadolinium is excreted in the breast milk. If your baby has normal kidneys, the small amount of gadolinium that is consumed will be readily eliminated in the urine.

If you are pregnant:  it is likely that you will not be able to have a breast MRI. Breast MRI requires that you lie on your stomach for a period of time that may be uncomfortable during pregnancy. In addition the gadolinium agents used for breast MRI have not been approved for use in pregnant women.

How long will the scan take?

The average Breast MRI scan takes about 45 minutes.

After Your Exam?

After a breast MR there are no restrictions placed upon you. You may eat or drive as normal, although if you took relaxation medication, you will need someone to drive you home.

How do I find out the results?

Your referring physician will receive the results within 24 hours and will then contact you to discuss the findings. Your doctor can make arrangements with us if your results are needed urgently.

Your doctor may also order a breast MRI if you have:

  • Dense breast tissue
  • Signs of breast cancer
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Leaking or ruptured breast implant
  • Lump in the breast
  • Precancerous breast changes

Breast MRIs are meant to be used with mammograms. While breast MRIs can detect many abnormalities, there are some breast cancers that a mammogram can better visualize.

What to Expect During a Breast MRI Exam

Upon arriving for your appointment, you'll be greeted by a receptionist and asked a series of questions.

An MRI technologist will walk you to the MR suite and explain the procedure to you.

You will be asked to change into a gown in our changing area, where you can lock your valuables in a locker.

You will be asked to lie face down with your breast in a special device known as a coil. The coil is used to improve image quality and is designed to optimize patient care and comfort. The coils we use can be customized for each breast of every patient.

Breast imaging is very sensitive to motion. Even the slightest movement or position adjustment during the exam may cause inaccurate findings. Therefore it is very important that you make yourself comfortable and lay motionless until the exam is completed.

During the scan you will not feel anything, you will be provided with earplugs and headphones, with music of your choice, to help subdue the noise generated by the MRI unit. 

In most cases, the imaging physician requests a contrast agent (dye) to improve the quality of the images. The dye is injected into your arm or hand, and may cause a cool sensation. If the breast MRI is for implant integrity only, then no contrast is needed.

The technologist is always able to see and hear you during the exam, but we attempt to keep talking to a minimum to reduce the chance of movement, which can blur the images.

After the exam, if contrast was used, the IV will be removed from your arm.

Schedule Today 

We are open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please call 530.926.9359 to make an appointment.