What is the Difference Between MRI and CT Scans?

Jun 20, 2021

What is an MRI?

MRI exams use radiofrequency waves to produce detailed 3D imaging of the breast, spine, joint, spine, or brain.

The whole machine is called a magnet, referring to the large magnets within it that help produces the images. The component receiving the signal is a coil. Different coils are designed to fit the size and shape of the organs.

For example, a breast coil needs to fit both breasts while an extremity coil is more flexible and is used to wrap around a knee or shoulder. The brain MRI uses a head coil.

MRI imaging is frequently used at The Women’s Imaging Center for preventative imaging in women who have a strong family history of breast cancer. MRI may also be useful for women who have been diagnosed with cancer in order to obtain more information prior to surgery.

How much does an MRI cost?

The cost of an MRI can vary depending on the complexity and indication. A knee MRI is very fast to perform and may cost $300-400 while a breast MRI with contrast administration used as a preventative tool for finding early breast cancer or as a diagnostic imaging exam for staging breast cancer may cost $400-600. Read more about what is an MRI and why you need one.


  • Make sure that the facility performing your imaging exam specializes in this. For example, very few imaging centers in the Denver metro area perform the great majority of all breast MRI examinations. Does the Center have specialists in Women’s Radiology interpretation on-site always ready to interpret and perform additional imaging afterward? If an MRI is abnormal, then added procedures such as ultrasound or MRI-guided biopsy may be needed.  


What is a CT Scan?

CT stands for computerized tomography that combines x-ray images taken from an array of different angles, and computers process these to reconstruct an image.

CT is often used for sudden trauma to the abdomen or head such as a car accident to evaluate for bleeding or rupture. CT is also used to evaluate the extent of cancer to see if there has been any spread of disease. CT may be combined with other imaging exams such as PET for the staging of some types of cancer.

These specialized imaging examinations need to be ordered by a surgeon or oncologist and always need to be approved by your insurance beforehand.


How much does a CT Scan Cost?

The cost of PET-CT scans is very expensive out of pocket for insurance patients. If the exam is not covered by your insurance, your referring physician may suggest a bone scan with the CT or MRI as a substitute. CT and MRI are very different imaging tools- CT uses x-ray while MRI does not, and they work differently. A CT scan usually costs $350-500 out of pocket and is very fast to perform. Some CT scans may cost more if oral contrast is given because these are usually for more complicated reasons such as staging for cancer.


  • CT has a greater role in the hospital setting while MRI is useful in everyday imaging out-patient affordable imaging at The Women’s Imaging Center. 


The Women’s Imaging Center uses the highest-rated breast imaging and comprehensive mammography and medical diagnostic imaging exams for women including 3D mammograms, screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasound, body ultrasound, MRI of breast, and body, breast biopsy, genetic counseling, and testing.


  • We offer breast MRI and other Medical Diagnostic Imaging MRI services at our Denver/Cherry Creek location. The Women’s Imaging Center also provides most other Women’s Imaging and Mammography Services at our other Denver metro area locations including Women’s Imaging- West/Lakewood, Women’s Imaging-South/Highlands Ranch, and Women’s Imaging-North/Westminster locations, and our Women’s Imaging-Centennial location.  

Call 303-321-CARE (2273) to schedule an appointment or make an online appointment request at Schedule Now





Kelly McAleese
by Kelly McAleese