A header image with graphics of the male symbol, prostate, and an MRI machine and the text "Prostate MRI"

A prostate MRI is generally recommended for men who either have or are at risk for prostate cancer or other prostate conditions.

Reviewed by Arun Krishnaraj, MD

Understanding the Prostate and MRI

Understanding both the prostate and MRI is essential to understanding what a prostate MRI is, what it does, and the benefits it offers.

We’ll start with the prostate. The prostate is an organ that is a part of of the male reproductive system. It is located in the pelvis in front of the rectum and between the bladder and penis. The prostate may be small, but it has an important job. It is responsible for producing semen, the fluid that carries sperm from the testicles out of the body.

MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. An MRI machine is essentially a large, powerful magnet. The machine uses magnetic and radio waves to produce very detailed images of soft tissues and structures, like the prostate.

What Is A Prostate MRI?

Now that we have covered what the prostate is and what an MRI is, we can ask: who needs an MRI of the prostate and why?

An infographic showing three things to know about a prostate MRI at UVA. 1. prostate MRI's are generally used to detect cancer 2. High levels of prostate specific antigen are a red flad for prostate issues 3. No endorectal coil is used during a Prostate MRI at UVA

Prostate MRIs are most often performed as a way of evaluating whether or not a patient has prostate cancer, how far advanced that cancer is, and whether or not the cancer has spread beyond the prostate. In addition to screening for cancer, prostate MRIs can also rule out the need to get a biopsy of the prostate. Even in the event a biopsy still needs to be done, a prostate MRI can pinpoint exactly where the biopsy needs to be done, resulting in fewer samples needing to be taken. This scan may also be performed to diagnose other prostate conditions such as infections, pre-existing conditions, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), etc.

Men who have tests that show a high level of an enzyme called prostate-specific antigen (PSA), are usually recommended to have a prostate MRI, as high levels of PSA are often a red flag for prostate cancer or other prostate issues.

Prostate MRIs provide a valuable window into your prostate health, showing whether or not cancer is present or has returned, or if there is a different prostate issue altogether. This can bring peace of mind and can help patients start treatment as soon as possible.

Explaining the Prostate MRI Procedure

Your doctor will cover any specific things you need to do to prepare for the procedure, like going on an all-liquid diet before the exam, or discussing the presence of any medical devices such as a pacemaker or metal implants that could interfere with the exam. Click the following link to learn more about preparing for an MRI of your prostate.

During the prostate MRI, you’ll interact with a medical imaging technologist who will operate the MRI machine during your scan. They will walk you through the procedure and answer any questions you have the day of.

The MRI procedure involves the patient being positioned on an examination table that is then slid into the MRI machine, where the scan takes about 30-45 minutes to complete. At UVA, we do not use an endorectal coil when performing a prostate MRI, so the procedure is done like a normal MRI.

For more on MRI procedures, take a look at our articles on MRI vs CT and Reducing MRI Claustrophobia.

After A Prostate MRI

After you have a prostate MRI, your doctor may determine a follow-up exam is necessary. Follow-ups are usually done to get additional imaging or use a special type of imaging on the prostate, but reasons for a follow-up vary from patient to patient. If you are being treated for a prostate condition, these additional rounds of imaging can show how well you are responding to your treatment.

If you are at risk for prostate cancer, talk with your doctor about options available to you and know what to expect in the event you have a prostate MRI. Contact the UVA Medical Center at (434) 982-6600 to learn more about getting a prostate MRI done.

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