Can Breast MRI Help Evaluate Cancer?
Study Weighs the Benefits, Risks of Routine Breast MRIs for Cancer Evaluation
WebMD News Archive
Breast MRI Study Findings
Among the findings:
- Breast MRI was associated with a 22-day delay in the start of treatment.
"We don't know why," Bleicher says. It could be because of the
scheduling of the MRI itself, or perhaps MRI prompts other biopsies." Three
weeks should not change a patient's survival chances, he says, but waiting can
clearly add to a patient's anxiety.
- Those who got the breast MRI were nearly twice as likely to have a mastectomy as breast-conserving surgery, even after
controlling for size and stage of the tumor. One reason, he says, may be that
the MRI, being highly sensitive, picked up something that looked like cancer
but turned out not to be -- a false positive.
- Those who got the breast MRI were slightly more likely to have what
surgeons call positive margins, although this finding could have been a chance
finding. The goal is negative margins. "The goal is to excise out the tumor
so there is a margin of normal tissue around it, reassuring us the cancer has
been completely removed," he says.
- Younger women were more likely than older women to have MRIs, but the use
of the MRI did not correlate with other factors such as family history of
breast or ovarian
Breast MRI Research Evolving
Another expert, Constance Lehman, MD, PhD, professor and vice chair of
radiology and head of breast imaging at the University of Washington Medical
Center and director of imaging at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, reviewed
the study for WebMD. She says the new study is "not the kind of study we
need to make firm conclusions."
She points out that the study was small and that only 130 women had breast
Research on the value of breast MRI when used in cancer treatment decision
is evolving, she says, and not all the answers are in.
The Bleicher study has inherent limitations, she says, because it wasn't a
study that randomized people to get one treatment or not. Rather, it was a
study that took a look backward, and it lacked some information, such as why
some women got MRIs and others didn't.