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'Unnecessary breast surgery' after MRI scans

22nd October 2010

An expert has warned that MRI scans may be leading to unnecessary breast surgery for some women.

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It has been suggested that the technique is too sensitive and is picking up harmless growths.
Magnetic resonance mammography (MRM) has been shown to be good at finding tumours that are hard to spot using standard x-ray mammography.

However, writing in the British Medical Journal, consultant Malcolm Kell from the Eccles Breast Screening Unit at University Hospital, Dublin, said there was "no compelling evidence that this technique should be routinely used in newly diagnosed breast cancer".

Young women who are considered at a high risk genetically of having breast cancer can be offered this service on the NHS, if recommended by a clinician.

But Kell has argued that despite the advantages of MRM, it could also be doing more harm than good.

A trial in MRM use in the management of early stage breast cancer showed that it failed to reduce the proportion of women who had to return for a second operation because initial surgery had not removed all the potentially cancerous tissue and those who had a mastectomy was seven times higher in those who had an MRM.

Consultant breast surgeon Professor Prof Kefah Mokbel from St George’s Hospital and the London Breast Institute at the Princess Grace Hospital, said a quarter of indications of breast cancer from MRMs was a false positive.

But he said it was an essential tool for checking younger women at a high genetic risk of cancer.

 

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