For those with cancer, keeping up with treatments and monitoring the progress of the cancer is essential. One such method that your doctor may use to get an internal image of the affected area is an MRI scan. For those who are unfamiliar with such a technique, however, you may have questions about the safety of the practice and whether or not it’s safe with your form of cancer. If you have cancer and have questions about MRIs and whether or not a scan would be right for you, here is a brief overview of the imaging technique and whether or not it’s safe for all cancer patients.
What Is an MRI?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging is an imaging technique that relies on the use of dyes and strong magnetic waves to develop a picture of the inside of the body. Unlike other imaging techniques that rely on radiation to develop pictures, an MRI is a non-invasive procedure and is considered to be relatively safer than other techniques such as X-rays. This method is especially efficient in getting a detailed picture of parts of the body that can’t be seen using alternatie methods.
What to expect during an MRI
If your doctor has recommended an MRI for cancer, you may have a procedure that begins with a small injection of gadolinium into your arm or hand. Gadolinium is a contrast dye that makes it easier for the doctor to see the images. Once the dye has been injected (if necessary), you will then be placed on a table that will to slide you slowly into the machine so that it’s able to take pictures of your body. MRI scans are usually quite loud, so you may need to use earmuffs or headphones during the process. You can expect the average session to last anywhere from 20 to 90 minutes, depending on the area that needs to be scanned.
Is an MRI safe for my form of cancer?
Because MRI scans are noninvasive, you won’t be exposed to any radiation during the process, and it’s one of the safer methods available. Still, some cancer patients may be unable to undergo the procedure because of the magnetic force that is created by the machine. For example, those who have kidney or liver disease, are pregnant, or are allergic to certain substances may not be able to tolerate the dye for the procedure. On a more serious note, those who have any type of metal devices or implants in their body such as pacemakers, a clip that has been implanted to treat a brain aneurysm, a cochlear implant, or metal body parts should immediately alert the doctor to these matters. Additionally, you should tell your doctor if you have any tattoos, because exposure to an MRI with some inks that contain metal could result in burns and discomfort.
If you’re an individual with cancer at any stage, you obviously want to make sure that you make the right treatment and monitoring choices along the way. MRI scans are not only safe but very detailed and will help to gain further insight on the progression and treatment of your disease. If your doctor has brought up MRI scans, but you think you need a little more information before you decide to go forward with the scan, use the guide above to learn more about what an MRI involves and whether or not you’re able have such a scan.