Health TipsOctober 11 2022

How to Prepare for a Breast MRI

An MRI tech pauses to talk with a patient before she goes through the MRI machine

If you have breast cancer or are at risk for having it, your doctor may recommend an MRI of the breast. Here's what to expect and how to prepare for a breast MRI.

What Is a Breast MRI?

MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, uses a magnetic field to produce pictures of a part of your body. It's one of the tools doctors use, along with a mammogram or other breast-imaging tests, to see the breast cancer and decide how to treat it.

Why Should I Get One?

In addition to suggesting MRIs for patients with breast cancer, or at high risk for it, your doctor may suggest you have an MRI of the breast if:

  • Your breast implants may have leaked
  • A close member of your family has had breast or ovarian cancer
  • You have a gene mutation like BRCA1 or BRCA2
  • Your breast tissue is dense
  • You've already had precancerous breast changes
  • You had radiation treatments to your chest area before you were 30 years old

What Should I Expect During My Breast MRI?

If you have to have an MRI of the breast, there are some things you can do to prepare and make the experience more pleasant.

First, find out if you will be receiving MRI contrast. If you are, this means the nurse or technologist will inject you with a contrast material through an IV.

After the IV line is inserted, you will lie face down on a platform with openings to accommodate your breasts, and you will be placed into the magnet of the MRI unit.

Halfway through the procedure, the nurse will inject the contrast material into your IV line and continue the scans. The whole sessions lasts between 30 minutes and one hour.

How Do I Prepare for a Breast MRI?

Now that you know what to expect, what are some things you can do to prepare?


Wear something loose fitting without metal fasteners.


Guidelines for eating and drinking before an MRI vary depending on the exam and place where you have the exam done. Check with your doctor before the procedure, but you may be able to take food and medications as usual.

Previous Medical History

Tell the doctor before the exam if you are allergic to gadolinium (the most commonly used contrast material), if you are pregnant, if you have any kidney conditions, or if you have had recent surgeries.


If you’re afraid of small spaces, let your doctor know before the procedure. They may be able to give you a mild sedative to help you relax before the exam.

Things to Leave at Home or Take Out Before the Procedure

  • Jewelry, watches, credit cards and hearing aids, all of which can be damaged
  • Pins, hairpins, metal zippers and similar metallic items, which can distort MRI images
  • Removable dental work
  • Pens, pocket knives and eyeglasses
  • Body piercings
  • Mobile phones, electronic watches and tracking devices.

A breast MRI tells doctors things about your breasts that no other tests can. So, if you have been scheduled to have an MRI, it is important that you do it as soon as possible for your future health.

Learn More About Breast Cancer

The Health Information Center (HIC) has more information about breast cancer and several good books you can check out on the topic.

You can also learn more about breast cancer from the Cancer Institute. They offer compassionate care for your cancer journey.

The Health Information Center

The HIC is a library staffed by medical librarians and certified health information specialists. The Health Information Center can do research on any health topic and get the results to you for free. Contact them at 865-305-9525 or They are located on the first floor of the hospital. In addition to health information, you can find computers, printers, and a quiet place to take a break. Becoming a library member is free and only requires a picture ID.