Skip to content

    Breast Cancer Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    MRI Shows Breast Tumors, but Biopsy Needed

    MRI More Sensitive Than Mammography but Not Necessarily More Accurate
    By
    WebMD Health News

    Dec. 7, 2004 -- For women with abnormal mammograms and possible breast cancer, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) won't eliminate the need for a breast biopsy, new research shows.

    Breast MRIs are highly sensitive in detecting breast tissue abnormalities but only moderately specific at determining which abnormalities are true breast cancers, says lead researcher David A. Bluemke, MD, PhD, a radiologist with Johns Hopkins Hospital.

    His report appears in the latest issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

    Recent studies have shown that MRI holds great promise in detecting early-stage breast tumors in women at high genetic risk. These women are typically very young women with dense breast tissue, which can make mammograms difficult to read and interpret. MRIs give doctors a much better view of the breast than mammograms do because they are not heavily influenced by breast tissue density.

    However, despite how sensitive this technique is in determining abnormalities of the breast, MRI is costly, and detected abnormalities aren't necessarily cancers. Whether it's useful for screening women at normal risk of the disease has not been examined.

    Today's study compares breast MRI plus mammography against mammography alone in evaluating suspicious breast tumors. The question: Is MRI really a better option in diagnosing breast cancer? And can it offset the need for a biopsy to confirm diagnosis?

    The study involved 821 patients about 53 years old who were referred for a breast biopsy. Among these patients, 404 malignant tumors were diagnosed. Researchers found:

    • MRI correctly detected 88% of cancers in 404 cancer cases.
    • MRI correctly identified as negative 68% of noncancer cases.

    Overall, MRI predicted 73% of positive cancer cases, while mammography identified 53% of cancers.

    Although MRI can pick up more cancers than mammography, it doesn't rule out the need for a biopsy for confirmation of cancer, he writes.

    Overall, while the sensitivity of MRI to detect breast abnormalities was high, the technology was only moderately specific in determining which lesions are cancerous. Researchers say that because of this, it may not be possible to avoid biopsies of breast lesions that appear to be suspicious on a mammogram.

    Today on WebMD

    Breast Cancer Overview
    From mammograms to living after treatment.
    Dealing with breast cancer
    Get answers to your questions.
     
    woman having mammogram
    The 3 latest tips to know.
    woman undergoing breast cancer test
    Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
     
    Resolved To Quit Smoking
    VIDEO
    Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
    Article
     
    Woman getting mammogram
    Article
    Screening Tests for Women
    Article
     
    serious woman
    Article
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    QUIZ
     
    what is your cancer risk
    Article
    breast cancer survivors
    Article