Breast MR is recommended for women with a high risk of developing breast cancer, but a new German study found that those at average risk can also greatly benefit from the exam. The results were published online in the journal Radiology.
A team led by Dr. Christiane Kuhl of RWTH Aachen University investigated the impact of breast MR on 2,120 women between the ages of 40 and 70 who had less than a 15 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer. From 2005 to 2013, the women with dense breasts had normal screening mammography and ultrasound and the rest had normal screening mammograms.
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They found that breast MR detected 60 additional breast cancers, including 40 invasive cancers. The overall supplemental cancer detection rate was 15.5 percent per 1,000 women.
Out of the 60 cancers detected, 59 were found only with MR, one was found also by mammography and none by mammography or ultrasound alone.
The researchers concluded that MR is a useful supplemental screening tool for women at average risk, especially those with dense breasts, and that it's superior to ultrasound for this indication.
This study, as well as previous research, confirms that MR is also able to detect more aggressive types of cancers called interval cancers. These cancers "exhibit an adverse biologic profile and are the main driver of breast cancer mortality," according to Kuhl.
“The interval cancer rate in our study was zero percent. Not a single cancer was undetected that became palpable,” she added. “This suggests that MRI finds breast cancers that mammography would also find, but MR detects them earlier, and it finds the cancers which, if MR had not been done, would have progressed to interval cancers.”