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Mammogram + MRI Helps Some High-Risk Women

March 3, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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Annual screening with both mammography and MRI seems to be a cost-effective way to help high-risk women live longer, says a new study published in the March issue of Radiology. The findings support current screening recommendations by the American Cancer Society.

“For women at the highest risk of breast cancer, using both breast MRI and mammography together for screening will likely reduce their chances of dying from breast cancer and help them live longer, healthier lives,” said lead study author Janie M. Lee, M.D. in a press release.

In the study, Dr. Lee and her colleagues compared the costs and benefits of film mammography, MRI, and a combination of mammogram plus MRI in a hypothetical group of women with BRCA1 mutations, a genetic factor that increases a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer.

The researchers then used stastistical modeling to estimate the number of quality adjusted life years (QALYs) gained by screening, along with lifetime costs. (QALYs are a measure of both the quantity and quality of life.)

Results showed that annual combined screening was best at detecting early stage cancers and prevented the most deaths from cancer. Combined screening became more cost-effective as breast cancer risk increased, and less cost-effective as risk decreased.

MRI screening was linked with an increase in false-positive results. Annual mammograms led to 37 false-positive screening exams for every breast cancer death avoided. Adding an annual MRI increased that number to 137 false-positive results for every breast cancer death avoided.

“The benefits provided by MRI are balanced by an increased chance of needing additional tests to evaluate a possible abnormality, and perhaps even a biopsy that might in the end show no cancer,” Dr. Lee said.

Radiological Society of North America

FREE Report: Computer-Aided Detection in Mammography: Five Key Breast Imaging Questions and Answers

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