Does New Breast Cancer Study Change the Standard of Care to Require MRI Screening?

By Michael Zerres

MRI Evaluation Increased Detection of Cancer in Opposite Breast

On March 29, 2007, an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that, in patients being treated for unilateral breast cancer, MRI screening of the opposite breast led to an increased detection of cancer in the opposite breast. This study received a lot of attention in the media/press and begs the question: Is it now standard of care for practitioners to screen the opposite breast with an MRI when a patient is being treated for unilateral breast cancer?

The short answer is: probably not. Why? The results of the study indicate that of 969 women who were enrolled, only 3.1% were actually diagnosed with cancer in the opposite breast as a result of the use of MRI imaging. Further, while it is certainly a good thing to improve the detection of cancer with the addition of MR imaging, and some practitioners may now implement this tool in their practice, the authors conclude: “The current cost of MRI precludes its widespread use in general populations…” As such, and because of the limited success of the MRI as a screening tool, it probably will not become the standard of care until further studies confirm its cost-effectiveness.

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