Breast Imaging: MRI

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We offer the full breadth of services to screen for and diagnose breast cancer. To learn more about breast imaging services, call 310-301-6800.

What is MRI?

MRI is a type of technology that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of your breast and breast blood flow.  

Each MRI exam produces thin slices of both breasts which can be viewed in all 3 directions (top to bottom, right to left, and front to back). The MRI images are used for diagnosis, treatment planning, and screening very high risk women for breast cancer among other indications. 

Does MRI have radiation?

MRI does not have radiation or use x-rays.

Does MRI have contrast?

In order for the exam to be diagnostic and evaluate for the presence of breast cancer, contrast is required. The contrast is called gadolinium and is injected into the arm vein. If you are over 60 years old, or have kidney disease, diabetes, lupus or multiple myeloma, a blood test may be necessary to make sure it is safe for you to receive contrast.

If your exam is only to evaluate for implant integrity (possible rupture), then contrast is not required.

Why do I need an MRI?

  • Screening: In patients at high risk for breast cancer or with a history of breast cancer, breast MRI may be part of the recommended high risk guidelines
  • Cancer Workup: In patients with a recent diagnosis of cancer, MRI can be helpful to look for additional sites of disease in the same or opposite breast, or chest well.
  • Residual Disease: To evaluate for residual cancer after biopsy or surgery
  • Chemotherapy: To evaluate for the response of the cancer following chemotherapy
  • Follow up: To re-evaluate finding seen on a prior MRI.
  • Mammogram: To further evaluate a finding seen on mammogram
  • Biopsy: MRI can help guide the radiologist during the procedure, so they can perform the biopsy under MRI guidance.
  • Nipple Discharge: To further evaluate the cause of nipple discharge
  • Implants: To further evaluate implant issues.
  • Other: Your doctor may order an MRI due a concern not mentioned here.

Can MRI show a finding not seen on a mammogram or ultrasound?

Yes. MRI has higher sensitivity than mammogram or ultrasound in detecting breast cancer. However, MRI is currently not recommended as a replacement for mammogram or ultrasound. MRI can often find additional findings in the breast which are possibly benign (not cancer) but require biopsy for confirmation.

What the MRI Exam Like?

  • A breast MRI takes approximately 20-25 minutes to perform.
  • It is important that the patient lie very still during this test as movement can make the study inaccurate.
  • Due to the strong magnet, we will ask you to fill out a questionnaire beforehand to ensure you do not have any metal objects in your body. If you do have implants, we may ask you more questions regarding the implants.
  • You will lie face down with your breasts placed in an opening. We will use a special breast coil to improve the quality of the MRI exam.
  • You will be able to communicate with the technologist during your exam.
  • The MRI exam is in a confined space. If you feel that you cannot tolerate the exam, you may want to ask your referring doctor for a mild sedative to be taken before your MRI. Please note that the radiology department cannot prescribe sedative medications.

What type of MRI do you use?

We strongly believe in offering only the latest technology for our patients. We use state-of-the-art 3T MRI scanners with large 60cm openings.

Is MRI safe in pregnant women?

MRI does not use radiation or x-rays.  However, it is important to tell the technologist if there is a chance you are pregnant. MRI contrast (gadolinium) is currently not routinely recommended for pregnant patients.

Why should I choose to have my MRI at UCLA?

Click here to learn more about the UCLA Breast Imaging Experience.

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Radiology Central Scheduling

  • Phone: (310) 301-6800
  • Fax: (310) 794-9035
  • Hours of Operation:
    7:00 am - 7:00 pm, Mon - Fri

Breast Imaging at UCLA provides a full range of high quality and innovative breast imaging studies, treatments and procedures to the greater Los Angeles area. We are currently located in Westwood, Santa Monica, Santa Clarita, Toluca Lake, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes, and Westlake Village. Click here to learn more about all of our locations.