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Mesothelioma MRI Scans

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans help diagnose mesothelioma by providing detailed views of the body’s soft tissues. Like CT scans and PET scans, this imaging technique allows doctors to detect mesothelioma tumors and see how far the cancer has spread. Learn about the MRI process, what to expect, and how our team can provide you or a loved one with personalized medical guidance for mesothelioma.

Fact-Checked and Updated by: Jenna Tozzi, RN

Last updated:

How Do MRIs Help Diagnose Mesothelioma?

MRI scans are useful in diagnosing mesothelioma since they allow doctors to see the fine details of soft tissues that line internal organs, which is where this cancer first develops.

A MRI machine produces a powerful magnetic field that aligns the atoms in the patient’s body and sends back signals to a computer. The computer then creates 3D images of soft tissues that mesothelioma specialists can use to spot possible tumors.

“An MRI uses radio waves and strong magnets instead of X-rays. It produces cross-sectional slices of the body like a CT scanner, but it also can produce slices that are parallel with the length of your body (both front to back and side to side).”
– International Mesothelioma Program

A mesothelioma MRI can show almost any part of the body, including the chest, abdomen, heart, lymph nodes, and pelvic region. Still, it’s important to know that an MRI is just one part of the diagnosis process. The gold standard test for confirming mesothelioma is a biopsy, which involves taking a fluid or tissue sample to have it tested in a lab.

Average MRI Costs - $1,328 - $2,035
Source: Honor Health

Key Facts on Mesothelioma MRIs

  • Purpose: Helping doctors diagnose mesothelioma and determine the extent of cancer spread
  • How they work: Radio waves and strong magnets are used to create computerized images of the body’s soft tissues
  • Special considerations: Patients with metal implants, pacemakers, or prosthetics should let their doctor know so they can ensure these objects won’t interfere with the scan
  • Procedure time: Between 30-60 minutes depending on how many images need to be taken

MRI scan results are crucial for pinpointing the location of mesothelioma cancer within the body and helping doctors create a personalized treatment plan.

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What to Expect With a Mesothelioma MRI

Knowing what happens during a mesothelioma MRI scan can help you feel more comfortable and ensure the procedure goes as smoothly as possible. Learn what to expect below.

1. Remove All Metal Items

Before entering the MRI scanner, you’ll be asked to remove any jewelry, watches, piercings, dentures, hearing aids, or other items that contain metal.

This is a normal precaution since metal items can interact with the magnetic field of the MRI machine, which can cause the scan images to come out blurry.

You may also receive a small amount of contrast dye called gadolinium through a vein on your hand or lower arm to help certain areas of your body show up more clearly on the MRI images.

2. Receive the MRI Scan

For the actual scan, you’ll lie on a narrow, flat bed that moves into a tunnel-shaped MRI machine.

Your MRI technician will operate the machine from another room to avoid interference from the magnetic field. You’ll still be able to see and communicate with them during the scan.

A series of images fom a chest MRI
Mesothelioma MRI image of the chest

You may hear loud tapping noises as the machine’s scanning coils turn on and off, but you’ll be given headphones or earplugs ahead of time to avoid any discomfort. Otherwise, the process is completely painless and only takes 30 minutes to an hour to complete.

Mesothelioma MRI scans are outpatient procedures, meaning there is no need for a hospital stay. There usually aren’t any side effects, either.

“An MRI exam causes no pain. You may get medicine to relax you if you have a problem lying still or are very nervous. Moving too much can blur MRI images and cause errors.”
– Mount Sinai Hospital

3. Discuss the Results With Your Doctor

After the scan is complete, the MRI images need to be studied by a radiologist (a doctor trained in interpreting scans and X-rays). This usually takes between 1-2 weeks.

Once the results are confirmed, you’ll have a follow-up appointment with your doctor to go over the scan images and determine next steps.

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How to Prepare for Your MRI Scan

Preparation is key to ensuring a successful and accurate mesothelioma MRI scan.

Here’s what you can do to get ready:

  • Discuss concerns about claustrophobia: If you’re anxious about being in tight spaces, your medical team may be able to offer a mild sedative to help you relax. However, you may need someone else to drive you home after the scan since this medication can make you drowsy.
  • Provide your complete medical history: Inform the radiologist or MRI technician of any recent surgeries, allergies (especially to contrast dye, if applicable), or implants like pacemakers, clips, or prosthetics, as some of these devices may not be MRI-safe.
  • Remove metal objects: Before the scan, you’ll be asked to remove all metal objects, including jewelry, glasses, hearing aids, and removable dental work since they can interfere with the MRI’s strong magnetic fields.
  • Wear comfortable clothing: Choose loose, comfortable clothing without metal zippers, buttons, or snaps. You may also be asked to change into a hospital gown to avoid any interference with the magnetic field.

You’ll receive more detailed instructions a few days before your mesothelioma MRI so you know exactly what to expect.

Use our Free Doctor Match to connect with mesothelioma specialists who can use MRI scans and other tests to accurately diagnose you.

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What Does Mesothelioma Look Like on an MRI Scan?

Cancerous tissue can show up differently on an MRI based on the location (type) of mesothelioma and whether it’s spread to other areas of the body.

Here’s what the four types of mesothelioma look like on MRI images:

  • An MRI for pleural mesothelioma may indicate thickening of the lung lining (pleural thickening) and pleural effusions (excess fluid) around the lungs.
  • A peritoneal mesothelioma MRI may highlight abnormal growths in the abdominal cavity or omental caking (thickening of the fat pad within the abdomen).
  • A pericardial mesothelioma MRI may show irregular thickening around the heart lining (pericardium).
  • An MRI for testicular mesothelioma may indicate masses within the scrotum. Fluid buildup may also be present.

MRI images can reveal where the cancer has spread, providing key information used to determine your mesothelioma stage. For example, if the MRI shows cancer tumors in different parts of your body, you may have late-stage mesothelioma.

“MRIs are good at showing us the differences between various parts of the body and can help cancer tissue stand out from normal tissue.”
– Dr. Melissa Chen, MD Anderson Cancer Center

Other Tests Used to Diagnose Mesothelioma

There are additional tests and imaging scans that can be used to diagnose mesothelioma besides an MRI.

Other imaging scans for mesothelioma include:

  • Chest X-rays
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans
  • Ultrasounds

Blood Tests and Biopsies

Mesothelioma blood tests can support findings from MRIs and other imaging scans by detecting certain proteins and other substances known as biomarkers. Mesothelioma patients have higher levels of these biomarkers.

If your imaging scans show any abnormal growths or masses, your doctor will order a biopsy. A mesothelioma biopsy involves extracting a small tissue or fluid sample and having it examined microscopically to confirm whether it contains cancer cells.

What Happens After You Get an MRI for Mesothelioma?

A radiologist will examine the pictures from the mesothelioma MRI scan and send the results to your doctor within a few days.

Your doctor will schedule a follow-up visit with you to discuss the findings and tell you the next steps that must be taken to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Should You Get a Second Opinion on an MRI Scan?

Yes, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion about mesothelioma MRIs and other scans.

Mesothelioma is a rare disease that can often be mistaken for more common conditions such as lung cancer. Consulting with a specialist who’s familiar with mesothelioma is essential for an accurate diagnosis.

What’s more, an MRI scan is just one part of the diagnostic process, and combining it with a biopsy is the only way to know for sure whether you have mesothelioma.

Use our Free Doctor Match to get connected with top mesothelioma specialists in your area now.

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We Can Help You Get a Mesothelioma MRI

Whether you’re looking for information on scheduling an MRI, understanding the procedure, or interpreting your scan results, Mesothelioma Hope is committed to helping you get the answers you need.

We’re here to make the process easier by:

  • Helping you get an accurate diagnosis or second opinion
  • Connecting you with top specialists for treatment
  • Sharing financial resources that can help pay for your medical costs

Contact our team or call us directly at (866) 608-8933 anytime to get personalized medical guidance.

Mesothelioma MRI FAQs

Can an MRI detect mesothelioma?

Yes, an MRI is one of several imaging scans that can be used to detect mesothelioma. MRI scans provide visuals of soft tissue and help doctors see if and where tumors have spread, which is crucial for staging the disease and planning mesothelioma treatment.

For example, an MRI can show if pleural mesothelioma has spread past the lung lining and invaded the chest wall or diaphragm (the muscle just below your lungs).

How long does a mesothelioma MRI scan take?

A mesothelioma MRI usually takes between 30 and 60 minutes to complete. However, the total time of the procedure can vary based on the number of images taken and the size of the area being scanned.

Are there any side effects with a mesothelioma MRI scan?

No, MRI scans generally have no side effects. You can return to your normal activities immediately after the scan unless you’ve been given a sedative, in which case you may need to have someone drive you home.

When will I get the results from a mesothelioma MRI scan?

Results from a mesothelioma MRI scan are usually available within 1-2 weeks, depending on the urgency level and the facility’s schedule.

Does a mesothelioma MRI scan hurt?

No, a mesothelioma MRI scan is painless. You might feel some minor discomfort due to having to lie still during the procedure or from the loud noises the machine makes.

You’ll have adequate ear protection throughout the procedure, and you can let the MRI technician know if you need to take a break at any time.

Jenna TozziWritten by:

Director of Patient Advocacy

Jenna Tozzi, RN, is the Director of Patient Advocacy at Mesothelioma Hope. With more than 15 years of experience as an adult and pediatric oncology nurse navigator, Jenna provides exceptional guidance and support to mesothelioma patients and their loved ones. Jenna has been featured in Oncology Nursing News and is a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators & the American Nurses Association.

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  1. American Cancer Society. (2024, February 16). MRI for cancer. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from
  2. International Mesothelioma Program. (n.d.). Diagnosing Mesothelioma. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Retrieved April 26, 2024, from
  4. MD Anderson Cancer Center. (2023, February 6). CT scan vs. MRI: What’s the difference? Retrieved April 26, 2024, from–what-is-the-difference.h00-159616278.html
  5. Mount Sinai. (2022, July 31). Chest MRI. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from
  6. Mount Sinai. (2022, July 5). Abdominal MRI scan. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from
  7. NHS. (2022, July 26). MRI scan. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from
  8. Volpi, F., et al. (2022). The Use of Chest Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Diagnosis. Diagnostics (Basel, Switzerland), 12(3), 750. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from
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