An MRI of the uterus is an MRI of the female pelvis. That means your cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and rectum will be looked at in addition to your uterus.
Your medical provider may have ordered an MRI of your pelvis, which includes the uterus. Or, you yourself may be concerned about the health of your uterus. In either case, getting a pelvic MRI can tell you a lot about your overall health.
Why Might a Clinician Recommend an MRI of Your Uterus?
There are many reasons a gynecologist or other medical provider might refer you for an MRI. Referrals could be prompted by the finding of a pelvic mass during a physical exam or by abnormal bleeding.
Here are other reasons your provider might order a scan:
Endometriosis and Adenomyosis
Both endometriosis and adenomyosis refer to disorders in which uterine tissue grows in places it shouldn’t. The difference lies in the location.
In endometriosis, uterine tissue grows outside the uterus. It commonly involves the ovaries and fallopian tubes and is often accompanied by pelvic pain and an irregular menstrual cycle.
In adenomyosis, uterine tissue grows into the muscle of the uterus. Both endometriosis and adenomyosis can have a detrimental impact on pregnancy, including infertility.
MR imaging has been used as a non-invasive imaging method for the diagnosis of adenomyosis. MRI scans have also been useful for diagnosing both anterior (near the front) and posterior (near the back) endometriosis, helping clinicians detect the presence of endometriosis in all areas of the body.
Cancer Detection, Characterization, and Staging
In oncology, MR imaging has been used for characterization, treatment monitoring, and disease recurrence.
If uterine, cervical, or endometrial cancer is suspected, one of the first steps is to determine
the stage of cancer (also known as cancer staging). This is where a doctor helps you assess exactly where the cancer is located, how big the tumors are, and how much they have progressed. They’ll let you know if you need to be concerned and will help you figure out the best plan for keeping an eye on any changes.
Another area where research has found MRIs to be useful is in investigating ovarian cysts.
A study published in Clinical and Experimental Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that about 7% of women worldwide have an ovarian cyst at some point in their lives. In the U.S., that number increases to 18% in postmenopausal women.
While learning that you have an ovarian cyst can be scary, it’s not necessarily a reason to worry. Cysts are fairly common and may not be related to cancer. Your clinician may order an MRI to make sure that a cyst on your ovary is indeed benign.
Visualization and Detection: The Benefits of a Pelvic MRI
The biggest benefit of doing an MRI of the pelvis is getting information. Without information, making treatment decisions is difficult and could be ineffective.
If a gynecologist or another health care practitioner has recommended you for a pelvic MRI, it’s likely they’re looking for more information and visualization. The scan helps provide a more informed picture of your situation and helps your medical practitioner decide the next course of action. In other words, MRIs are often useful diagnostic and monitoring tools.
When used as a preventive measure, regular pelvic screenings help monitor your body across time and detect any malignancies or abnormalities early. Having a baseline understanding of your pelvic health, and tracking any changes can be significant and sometimes lifesaving.
Can a Pelvic MRI Diagnose Uterine Cancer?
The only way to definitively diagnose cancer is through biopsy and tumor testing.
MRIs can, however, play a role in treating cancer. An article published in RadioGraphics reviewed the updates on staging put forth by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, also known as FIGO. FIGO now includes MRI as an essential part of the staging of endometrial cancer (a type of uterine cancer). According to the article, this type of imaging can accurately visualize the depth of myometrial invasion which correlates with tumor grade, lymph node metastasis, and overall patient survival.
This data is not only vital to initial evaluation but can also aid in evaluating treatment effectiveness and monitoring recurrence.
Should I Get a Preventive MRI?
Screening tests are used to detect cancer before symptoms appear. This is important because early detection of cancer increases survival rates.
In fact, a paper published in Nature shows that the Pap smear, a preventive screening test for cervical cancer, has reduced mortality due to cervical cancer by 70% in developed countries.
According to the National Cancer Institute, cervical cancer represents 0.8% of all new cancers in the United States.
Uterine cancer, on the other hand, represents 3.5% of all new cancer cases, making endometrial carcinoma, cancer of the lining of the uterus, the most common gynecologic malignancy. What’s worse is that the rate of uterine cancer has been rising by approximately 0.5% a year since 2009, according to the Institute.
Fortunately, regular pelvic screenings can serve as an early detection tool for cancers and abnormalities. If used properly, they have the potential to reduce mortality rates.
How Is the Test Performed?
An MRI is a painless and fairly simple test from the patient’s perspective. The procedure can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours.
Preparing for a Pelvic MRI
Preparing for an MRI is relatively easy.
A radiology technician will ask you about any preexisting conditions or implants and may discuss any feelings of nervousness about being in tight spaces. If you have metal implants, you may not be a candidate for an MRI. While you may have already discussed this with another medical provider, radiology technicians always do a second check.
Because the MRI machine contains strong magnets, you’ll be asked to remove all metal objects, including eyeglasses, jewelry, hearing aids, and removable dental work. You’ll wear a gown during the scan.
During the Scan
The most difficult part is holding still.
During an MRI, you’ll lie flat on a table that will slide into the MRI machine. You’ll experience airflow and noises while inside the machine. While you will be alone in the room, the radiographer operating the machine will be able to see you and communicate with you the entire time.
You won’t experience any pain during the scan, although you may be sore from lying in one place.
After the Scan
Once the scan is over, you can go back to your normal day.
You don’t need anyone to pick you up, and there is no downtime after the exam is complete. Simply get dressed and head out the door.
How Do I Interpret My Results?
After an MRI, a radiologist reviews and interprets the image findings and generates an official radiology report that consists of a written analysis of your imaging study. The report is then transmitted to your medical provider, who will follow up and walk you through your results and any next steps they recommend.
Learn More About Your Uterine Health With an ezra Screening
Traditionally, doctors tend to take action once you have symptoms. This approach can allow cancers to grow undetected. Routine MRIs and other screenings not only have the ability to give you peace of mind but can potentially provide lifesaving information.
Ezra’s full-body screenings provide additional information about your overall health so that you can take control of your health now.
If you feel ready to take control of your uterine health, book an ezra screening now.
Do you know someone who could benefit from a full-body screening?
Gift a scan to someone special.