Can Breast MRI Help Evaluate Cancer?
Study Weighs the Benefits, Risks of Routine Breast MRIs for Cancer Evaluation
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 8, 2008 -- Routine use of breast MRI
(magnetic resonance imaging) scans to help evaluate cancer after diagnosis is not
as beneficial as some believed, according to a new study.
"The bottom line is it doesn't help us as much as we thought it
did," says Richard J. Bleicher, MD, a surgical oncologist at Fox Chase
Cancer Center in Philadelphia and lead author of the study, presented Saturday
at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Breast Cancer Symposium in
But another expert who reviewed the study abstract for WebMD says the study
was small and that the role of breast MRI to evaluate cancer is still
On one point all sides seem to agree: More research is needed to determine
if MRI can improve the outcomes of women with breast cancer.
Bleicher and his colleagues reviewed the records of 577 breast cancer
patients, including 130 who had MRIs before treatment and 447 who did not. The
goal was to determine the effect, if any, of getting an MRI on the time to
start treatment, the chances of removal of all the cancer, and other
"We wanted to ascertain whether routine MRIs [for cancer, not for
screenings] are helpful and do they, in fact, assist us in treatment
planning," Bleicher tells WebMD.
The role of breast MRI for screening, he says, is clearer. The American
Cancer Society, for instance, advises that MRIs be used in combination with
mammograms for preventive screenings of certain women at especially high risk
of breast cancer.
But the role of the breast MRI to evaluate breast cancer is not as clear, he
The thinking among experts, he says, is that MRIs, because they are so
sensitive, may allow better visualization of the cancer, so using one when
cancer is diagnosed or suspected should help guide treatment decisions.