Sunday 4 February 2018

What Happens During a Breast MRI Scan?

I arrive at the hospital 15 minutes early as requested. I check in at reception and I'm given a form to complete. The form asks lots of questions about previous surgery and any metal work I have in my body. I do have a metal plate in my left wrist but we already know from the mid consultation phonecall that it's not an issue for this scan.

Almost immediately I'm called through, I leave Chris behind and I'm led to a changing area. I don the hospital gown that I have become so accustomed to over the past 4 months. I'm wearing jeans on my bottom half but obviously there's metal buttons and zips on them so very cleverly I brought a pair of pyjama bottoms with me to protect my modesty whilst in 'the tube'. 

Once I'm changed I head back out. The radiology nurse puts me at ease. She passes me a key and I pop all of my things in to a locker. Next job is to have my cannula inserted. Everything is explained, I'll have a scan first then a special dye will be injected through the cannula and I'll be scanned again.

The dye will help any potentially cancerous breast tissue show up more clearly. Cancers need an increased blood supply in order to grow so on a breast MRI scan, the contrast tends to become more concentrated where there is cancer growth. These usually show up as white areas on an otherwise dark background.

The MRI room is huge. I'm told to lie on my front on the 'bed' with my boobs in the holes. Easier said than done. I put all my weight on the pillow in front of me, the pillows fold and collapse and I nearly topple. Once in place, boobs hanging, the radiologist turns a dial on the side and my breasts are clamped into place. She puts a wedge at my knees so my legs are resting against it, the bottom of my feet facing upwards towards to the top of the scanner. She tells me this will help my back.  

Picture me, laying flat on my tummy, arms outstretched in front of me like superwoman. I don't feel like superwoman but maybe I will once I've won my fight.

The headphones are placed on to my ears and the bed moves me head first in to the scanner. Once I'm in place, the radiologist appears at the other end of the tube. Facing me she attaches a long spiral tube in to my cannula. It looks like the cable from an old fashioned phone. It's in. The radiologist reminds me it's going to be very noisy and she leaves me on my own.

The music starts but the MRI machine is so loud I can hardly hear it. So many different noises, loud clicking, alarm sounds... all whilst I'm trying to stay calm and still.

I focus on staying still. Big mistake. The moment you think about staying still, really concentrate on it, you become paranoid about moving. So then I'm thinking I have to keep my chest still... but how... do I stop breathing? Immediately my heart starts pounding with panic - Oh God! Now I'm breathing really fast, my chest must be going up and down so much. Shit! Be calm, be calm. Listen to the music. I relax again, breathing slows. I zone out from the noise. 

The music was ok... Take That, A Little Less Conversation, then wait... what? Is that Eamon? The song F*ck It (I Don't Want You Back) is on? It plays for about 40 seconds before it's skipped on to be replaced by Enrique Iglesias. I picture the panic as the radiologist's Spotify played the inappropriate song. I chuckle to myself... which makes me panic about moving again... my heart goes again and I cant control my breathing. God this is so hard! Keep still woman!

After a what feels like forever, there is silence. A voice comes through the headphones, "Dye injection in 10 seconds." My right hand lurches as it goes in. It's a strange feeling, a whoosh of cold at first but then slowly I can almost feel it going round my body. It makes me feel warm. My hand tingles, arms still stretched out in front of me, above my head.

My shoulders are aching now. I cant wait to move my head, my neck, my arms. The noise intensifies again. I've been in this awful position for at least half an hour. 

Finally it's over. The nurse returns. I tell her my heart was pounding and I was panicking that my breathing was jiggling my boobs. She laughs and tells me I did really well. I grab my things from the locker and we head in to the blood room again so she can remove the cannula.

It's over with. I head back to Chris with a very flushed face. He smiles and tells me a 'look fooked' - I giggle like I'm drunk, I'm so tired and I yawn all the way home. Let's just hope the results show my right boob is clear. 

*Fingers Crossed*

More waiting.

Did you know?
To enable a clear and successful MRI screening you need to be between 6-12 days out from the start of your last period. 

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