MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging)

What is this?

An MRI scan uses magnets rather than x-rays to produce detailed pictures of your prostate, surrounding tissues, bones and other organs. The pictures can be viewed on a computer screen. The machine is like a long tunnel which covers most of your body.

Why is this done?

Usually, this is done after a prostate biopsy has found cancer in the prostate. In some centres, patients may be asked to have an MRI scan before their biopsy. An MRI scan is used to look closely at the cancer in the prostate. The pictures can also show if the cancer has remained within the prostate or has spread outside the walls of the prostate to other organs or tissues. It will help the doctor decide on the treatment choices most suitable for you.

What happens?

It is probably best to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing without metal fasteners and take off any jewellery or other metal objects before going in for the scan.

You will most likely be asked questions about your health and if you have any metal implants such as a pacemaker and usually the doctor or radiographer will go through a checklist with you, asking about metal implants to make absolutely sure the scan will not harm you in any way. Let the staff know if you don’t like being in or have a fear of closed spaces or are unable to undergo an MRI scan for any other reasons.

You will be asked to lie flat on your back on a narrow table and asked to keep quite still. Pillows and supports might be used to help you stay still and in the correct position. The table slides into the tunnel and you may find that the machine is quite noisy. At certain points, the radiographer may ask you to hold your breath or lie totally still while the images are being recorded.

The radiographer isn’t able to stay in the room, but can see, hear and speak to you all the time during the MRI scan. The scan usually takes between 30 and 40 minutes. When it’s finished, you will probably have to wait to make sure that the pictures are good quality so the doctor has sharp images to see what is happening in your body.

You won’t get the results straight away, so ask when you are likely to hear about the results of the scan. You should feel free to contact the hospital to ask about your results.