Imaging for Prostate Cancer

MRI for Prostate Cancer

Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI is a medical imaging scan that produces very clear pictures of the human body without the use of radiation. Instead, MRI machines use large magnets, radio waves, and computers to produce these images. 

The Prostate

The prostate is an organ that is a part of the male reproductive system. It is located in the pelvis in front of the rectum and between the bladder and penis. Cancer occurs when normal cells mutate into abnormal cells. Though some prostate cancer can grow and spread quickly, it usually spreads slowly. Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in American men after skin cancer. Similar to colon cancer and other types of cancer that affect men in higher numbers than women, prostate cancer affects men widely but most men do not die from it: the American Cancer Society estimates that while 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, it is fatal in 1 in 41 cases.

In prostate cancer patients, MRI may be used to examine the prostate and nearby lymph nodes to distinguish between benign (noncancerous) and malignant (cancerous) areas. During a prostate MRI, the patient is positioned on an examination table that is then slid into the MRI machine. The scan takes about 30-45 minutes to complete.

Because an MRI uses powerful magnetic waves to image the inside of your body, a prostate MRI is totally painless and non-invasive. Many doctors consider a prostate MRI as accurate as a biopsy at detecting prostate cancers, but they also trust it to tell them how advanced the cancer is and if it has spread to other parts of the body. A prostate MRI can also detect other prostate conditions, like infections or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Detecting cancers early is critical to improving results and deciding on a course of treatment. It is best to discuss any and all screening tests with your primary care doctor or oncologist. 


MRI examination poses no risk to the average patient if appropriate safety guidelines are followed. People who have had heart surgery and people with the following medical devices can be safely examined with MRI:

  • Surgical clips or sutures
  • Artificial joints
  • Staples
  • Cardiac valve replacements (except the Starr-Edwards metallic ball/cage)
  • Disconnected medication pumps
  • Vena cava filters
  • Brain shunt tubes for hydrocephalus

Some conditions may make an MRI examination not a good idea. Tell your doctor if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Heart pacemaker
  • Cerebral aneurysm clip (metal clip on a blood vessel in the brain)
  • Implanted insulin pump
  • Narcotics pump (for pain medication)
  • Implanted nerve stimulators
  • Metal in the eye or eye socket, or metal near any major artery
  • Cochlear (ear) implant for hearing impairment
  • Implanted spine stabilization rods
  • Severe lung disease (such as tracheomalacia or bronchopulmonary dysplasia)
  • Severe acid reflux
  • Weight of more than 300 pounds
  • Not being able to lie on back for 30 to 60 minutes
  • Claustrophobia


Depending on the type of MRI your doctor prescribes, i.e. open MRI, your experience during an MRI scan may differ. 

As the MRI scan begins, you will hear the equipment making a muffled thumping sound, which will last for several minutes. Other than the sound, you should notice no unusual sensations during the scanning.

Certain MRI exams require an injection of a dye (contrast material). This helps identify certain anatomic structures on the scan images. Some people may experience allergic reactions to contrast dye and should notify their doctor and the center’s staff if they notice any symptoms immediately. Before the exam, feel free to ask questions and tell the technician or doctor if you have any concerns about contrast mediums.

People who experience MRI claustrophobia and have difficulty staying calm may benefit from talking to their doctor before the procedure. It is best to consult your primary care physician to learn more about options to combat MRI-related stress and if they are right for you during your scan.


Once your scan is over you should be able to resume your usual activities immediately. Your Medmo recommended center will notify your doctor when the results have come and your doctor will discuss the test results with you. 

If you have any further questions or concerns about MRI scans for prostate cancer, please discuss them with your referring doctor.

To book a scan, visit us at Medmo helps people schedule radiology imaging tests – such as MRI, CT scans, PET, and more – at nearby accredited centers and identify the payment solution that works best for them.


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