I have had several people ask me about how to get through having a breast MRI done, so here are my suggestions on how to prepare for one. I’m really claustrophobic, so you can imagine my concern when the MRI technician told me that the procedure takes 45 minutes (yup, that’s roughly how long it takes to do both breasts). Here are my recommendations on how to get through it without hyperventilating:
- As with any of the procedures you have to go through during this breast cancer process, I would recommend bringing someone with you. You never know how you’ll react to some of the procedures and you won’t know what kind of shape you’ll be in to drive yourself home, so it’s always best to have someone with you, just in case you’ll need a ride home. Plus, afterwards you can both laugh about how crazy the experience has been (or cry together if it’s a particularly bad one).
- The MRI is about 45 minutes long if you’re getting both breasts checked, so wear socks to keep your feet warm as the room was pretty cold when I went.
- Don’t wear any metal jewelry. They kept asking me if I had any body piercings (come on, do I really look like I would have a belly button ring?) or metal parts in my body.
- You will be laying face-down on a cushioned bench-like table which has 2 holes, into which the nurse will help you position your breasts (similar to the image above).
- The technician will try to get you as comfortable as possible, because you need to lay still, but she’ll move your arms and breasts around until they’re in the right position and once you’re in it, try really hard not to move, so that the films will be accurate.
- They do the scan with and without dye to get a better visual, so you’ll be getting a needle with dye inserted halfway through (I hate needles). It feels cold when they inject the dye, a very odd sensation. My technician inserted the needle prior to the procedure while I was on the table, so that she just came out and injected the dye for the second part of the procedure.
- Ask all of your questions before they start because once you’re in there, it would be tough getting out.
- If they have the option, ask them to put the headphones with music on you (you’ll be lying down with your arms in a weird position and won’t be able to do it yourself).
- You can’t really hear the music that well, because the machine is REALLY loud and bangs incessantly the whole time, but with the headphones on, you can count how many songs have played to gauge how long it’s been. It was about 13 songs for the 45 minutes. By counting the number of songs and figuring out how many minutes had passed, I felt a little calmer.
- I had them play “Coffee house music” from Sirius radio and it was nice when I could hear it over the din of the banging machine.
- As noted above the machine is REALLY loud and bangs incessantly the whole time, so just be aware of that going in or it’ll scare the heck out of you when it first starts. I actually thought the machine had broken until I realized it was going to continue and was part of the process.
- Practice deep breathing techniques to calm yourself down when it first starts, so you don’t move around and mess up the films.
- Pee before you go in, because once you’re in there there’s no getting out; make a rest room pit stop before you get on the table.
- After the procedure, it took about a week for me to get the results, so don’t expect to receive results the exact same day or even that week as it might not be for another full 5-7 days.
- I called prior to the procedure and asked the technician a lot of questions. I told her that I’m very claustrophobic and that I was worried about being inside the machine; she told me that they would work with me and try to alleviate my concerns as much as possible.
- I then told the technician who was there on the day of the procedure the same concerns so that she was aware of my worries also.
- I’m of the mindset that it’s not a time to be brave during any of these procedures. I wanted to know that if I had a panic attack while in there, I could flag them down, and someone would know enough to get me out quickly.
By the way, they told me they would give me a Valium if I was really nervous. I passed, figured I’d need more like a Vicodin or Quaalude to get me through it if I was really going to have a bad reaction, LOL.
It wasn’t as bad as I expected. They had a little mirror in front of me, which slanted out towards the room so that I could see the technician in her windowed room in front of me which calmed me down a bit, because I knew that if I had a complete meltdown, I could get her attention by waving my hand around or screaming and she’d see me. None of these things happened. It was fine and I wasn’t really as scared as I thought I’d be. I hope you find this information helpful, and I hope your experience with your own MRI isn’t too frightening.
“You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.”
— Dale Carnegie