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MRI may prevent breast cancer

9th August 2007

Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scans perform better than traditional mammograms in diagnosing breast cancer in its early stages, European researchers say.


The scans could offer a new way of diagnosing the disease and even prevent cancer among high-risk women.

Standard mammograms don't always pick up a tumour known as ductal carcinoma in-situ, or DCIS, which is non malignant, but an important indicator for developing breast cancer.

With better early warning systems in place, such lesions could be removed before they turned cancerous, according to a report published in The Lancet by a team led by Christiane Kuhl, a radiologist at the University of Bonn.

Kuhl and her colleagues studied 7,319 women over five years and also presented their findings at a June meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

They concluded that MRI scans should no longer be regarded as an adjunct to X-ray mammography, but as a distinct method to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages.

While the findings were unexpected, experts say the pathophysiology of breast cancer backs them up strongly.

According to a commentary by Carla Boetes and Ritse Mann of the Netherlands' Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, MRI should now be tested in more women to see if it should become a standard screening tool.

MRI found DCIS in more than 90 percent of the 167 women with the condition, while mammograms only found 56 percent of DCIS cases.

Evidence from autopsies suggests that DCIS frequently goes undetected in women.

Currently, the American Cancer Society recommends that MRI screening be done annually in addition to mammography starting at age 30 for women at high risk.

High risk women are those who have had genetic testing which shows a predisposition towards breast cancer, or those with a strong family history.

An MRI scan costs US$1,000 (£494) to US$1,500 and has the disadvantaged of detecting lesions which are harmless, a phenonmenon known as a 'false positive'.

Experts also point out that traditional mammograms also pick up things that MRI does not, so are unlikely to be ruled out as a diagnostic method any time soon.

Breast cancer is diagnosed in 1.2 million men and women globally every year and kills 500,000.


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Article Information

Title: MRI may prevent breast cancer
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 3705
Date Added: 9th Aug 2007


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