Can Breast MRI Help Evaluate Cancer?
Study Weighs the Benefits, Risks of Routine Breast MRIs for Cancer Evaluation
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.
The findings from the current study, she says, don't hold up at her
"This study shouldn't rule out a preoperative MRI,'' she says. "This
is one abstract from one center that did one study in a very select group of
She points to another study, published in the Journal of Clinical
Oncology, which reviewed the results of 19 studies and found the rate of
mastectomy because of false positives on the MRI is 1%.
Breast MRI: Advice for Women
If a woman has suspected or diagnosed breast cancer, Lehman says, she should
ask about the potential benefits and risk of a breast MRI.
"Go to a center with a high level of experience," she advises.
Bleicher's advice: "Women who walk into their doctor's office with
breast cancer should not be immediately thinking, 'I have to have an MRI.'
There are false positives [to MRIs], unnecessary biopsies, a lot of anxiety ...
and a three-week delay [to treatment]. All these disadvantages have not been
offset by an improvement in our ability to choose the proper
More study is needed, he says, to decide the best role for breast MRI in