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Extremely claustrophobic and need an MRI

khays648 Member Posts: 1

Hope everyone here is doing well. I have a question. I have been diagnosed (by a biopsy) with breast cancer and now they want to do an MRI. I am being told it will be a closed MRI and I will be given two valium. I am EXTREMELY claustrophobic (had a donut CT scan and freaked out even on that) so am wondering if there are magic words I need to say to get them to use an open MRI OR to completely knock me out for the closed one. It is a breast MRI so I don't think I need to be awake to breathe or hold my breath since my understanding is that the breasts hang out anyway. I am literally more freaked out about the MRI itself than what it will find. Seems like they would have to do something (other than 2 valium which WILL NOT cut it) to help me. Can I make them refer me to an open MRI? Should I try to find another place to treat my cancer that will use an open MRI? I know they say open MRIs are not as good, but I would rather have them radiate more than they need to than go into a closed MRI. Please advise and thanks so much!


  • threetree
    threetree Member Posts: 1,366

    Khays - Hi, I'm not going to be a lot of help here, especially re being able to get an open MRI, but I will offer what I can. I am slightly claustrophobic and worry about MRI's, but I can say that I manage. It's the initial entrance into the machine that bothers me the most. The loud pulsating noise they make bothers me much more than the closed environment. I found that closing my eyes the whole time and just lying there thinking my eyes are closed, and not that I'm in a closed environment, helps tremendously. They also give me headphones and ask if I have a choice of music, and then they play that. That too helps. They also have a microphone, so that you can talk to them, and an "emergency button" you can push if you just can't stand it. I also have a little trouble with the donut CT, but can get through that pretty easily. I've always managed to get through, but then again, my claustrophobia is minimal.

    My work sometimes has me accompanying disabled people to medical appointments, and I was with a woman once who after several attempts by the techs, simply could not be slid into the machine and they ultimately decided that they just could not do the test on her, and that the doctors would have to "estimate" her condition based on all the other test findings that they could get. I think that may be what they do when someone just cannot do the test; they just do the best they can without that particular result. I really hope you can get an open MRI somewhere. Others will probably come along with "more and better" comments than mine, so good luck to you. I'm really sorry you are in this situation.

  • spookiesmom
    spookiesmom Member Posts: 8,176

    For a breast mri you are face to floor, that may be better? I had an open mri the first time, my funky back doesn’t allow me on my stomach. The results were horrible. My surgeon flipped out in front of me. I mean he was pissed. Yes they are LOUD. See what your potential facility can offer to ease your stress.

  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 4,846

    My mother was terrified of MRI’s. Beside the Valium, she wore eyeshades and listened to music. She still hated it but muscled through. If you can access an open MRI that would be great, but if not, perhaps some of these suggestions will help. Take care

  • ctmbsikia
    ctmbsikia Member Posts: 756

    Ask for Ativan if you don't get the open MRI. I agree, valium won't do it. Good luck to you.

    I love the eye shades idea. Can I ask what type were allowed in the machine? I usually keep my eyes closed the whole time.

  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 4,846


    Any soft comfortable eyeshades will do as long as they have no metal parts. I think my mom was using a cheap pair of eyeshades leftover from my flight attendant days with Pan Am 😂.

  • dsc
    dsc Member Posts: 50

    I am extremely claustrophobic and was told to take one Ativan an hour before the appointment and a second one a half hour before the appointment. I was concerned nothing was happening - I wasn’t feeling anymore relaxed - but the nurse assured me I’d be fine. I was face down with a lavender scented mask on and I also had earbuds in. Surprisingly I was fine. I also slept like a baby on the way home (ensure you have someone to drive you if you are taking Ativan). This is a really important test. Just take the medication as prescribed. Thinking of you and wishing you well.

  • mavericksmom
    mavericksmom Member Posts: 1,162

    Wishing you well too. Know that you are not alone! I was never very claustrophobic but I panicked during my breast MRI and they had to back me out! The tech told me in no uncertain terms that they needed to put me back in "now" or I couldn't have the test. I sucked it up, closed my eyes, forced my mind to go to my "happy place", on a hammock, on a beach, listening to the waves, and feeling calm and relaxed. I knew I too wanted to know as much as possible about my cancer, and the way to do that was to have the MRI done.

    I won't sugar coat it, I left saying I would go through that again, but that was almost three years ago and if I needed one again, I would do it! I think you will do well if you take the medications your doctors order for you. Again, you are not the only one, they are used to people with claustrophobia!

    You've got this!

  • maggiehopley
    maggiehopley Member Posts: 111

    I've had three breast MRI's and at my imaging center they slide you into the machine feet first, so you are only in up to your chin; your nose and eyes are outside the machine. You do have to keep your head down, though, because you have to stay still, but I could tell my head was "in the clear". I just closed my eyes and pretended I was on the beach. There are indeed times you have to hold your breath, so I'm not sure how they could do that part if you were sedated. I recommend that when you put your arms over your head you keep your elbows a tiny bit bent so all your body weight is not on your sternum, as that gets uncomfortable after a while.

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 8,069

    @khays648 We haven't seen you since you first posted — have you talked to your doctors about the open MRI? Or, do you know when your MRI is scheduled? Please keep us posted with how it goes. We're thinking of you!

    —The Mods