MRI Detects Early Breast Cancer Cells
Study Shows MRI Screening Has High Detection Rate of Precancerous Cells
WebMD News Archive
Aug. 9, 2007 -- MRI screening has been considered less sensitive than
mammography for detecting precancerous cells in the breast which are confined
to the milk ducts, but a new study suggests the opposite is true.
Breast MRI detected 92% of surgically confirmed cases of ductal carcinoma in
situ (DCIS) in the German study, compared to a 56% detection rate for
mammography. Because DCIS often develops into invasive breast cancer, it is
almost always treated with surgery to remove all of the DCIS tissue.
The study appears in the Aug. 11 issue of the journal TheLancet.
In the U.S., magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is currently recommended in
addition to an annual mammogram only for very high-risk women. But researcher
Christiane K. Kuhl, MD, of the University of Bonn, says the new findings could
mean a much broader use for breast MRI screening in the future.
"I would go so far as saying this is the beginning of the death of
mammography, but it is going to be a very, very slow death," Kuhl tells
"It will take many years before we have enough randomized prospective
trials to fully confirm our findings and enough radiologists who are qualified
to perform MRI to screen for breast cancer."
The Problems With MRI
Debbie Saslow, PhD, of the American Cancer Society, is unconvinced. She
tells WebMD that mammography is, and will remain, the screening tool of choice
for breast cancer for at least the next decade.
"We will see more technologies like MRI approved for use along with
mammography," she says. "But I don't know anyone who believes that any
of these technologies are candidates for replacing mammography."
Availability and cost are presently two important obstacles to a broader use
of breast MRI in the U.S., but they are not the only ones, Saslow says.
A breast MRI can cost $1,000 to $1,500 -- ten times the typical cost of
mammography. And there are currently not enough radiologists trained in the
procedure or dedicated breast MRI machines to provide screening to a larger
population of women.