Cathy B., Ontario, Canada: The series of MRIs I had were to the pelvis, abdomen and chest, and took several hours in total. I requested all three areas, but most of you will likely be "shooting" only one area, so it won't take as long.
I have to be honest - this machine is all-encompassing and noisy, and if you are claustrophobic you might experience some anxiety with this one. The noise from the machine is quite 'alien-like' to me. Sort of a 'schrrooom, schrrooom' and very loud. They gave me ear plugs. You don't have to drink anything beforehand, but they may insert an IV (intravenous) so that a contrast can be injected for some of the shots. (You'll feel the warmth of the solution going through your veins).
The machine is very big and long and the table you lie on is 'slid' into the machine....how far in, is dependent on what is being filmed. So, if it's pelvic, your legs will be outside of the machine. Occasionally you will be asked to hold your breath. A great tip is to bring someone with you. Unless they have a pacemaker or such, they can stay in the room with you. I brought a friend who sat at the end of the machine and kept a hand on my feet....helped to keep me 'grounded' and in touch with the outside world.
MRIs seem to take a lot longer than CT scans and my impression was that because they are more 'technologically' advanced, they would show disease at its earlier stages. I've since learned this is not necessarily the case.
Georgia P., Massachusetts, USA: I had an MRI before surgery to determine if other organs and tissues showed signs of the cancer having spread to them. I was a bit upset about having to go into the machine headfirst, and since they were doing the pelvic area, my gyn suggested I ask to go in feet-first. This meant that my head was only a few inches away from the open end of the tube when I was inside it, leaving me feeling less "closed in". I was also able to hold one arm up alongside my head and my husband was able to hold my hand. I didn't find the noise that bad, since I was prepared for it. But I was very glad to have my head close to the opening!
I know that some centers now have "open MRI" machines, where you are not enclosed completely. This is an option for those who are claustrophobic. You can also request music of your choice during the procedure; the machine I was in had earphones as part of the set-up. Compared to other procedures, this is probably one of the least invasive, if you don't mind being slid into a noisy tube!.