Should You Have a Screening Breast MRI?

Should you have a screening MRI? You can assess your risk in the following article.

Larchmont Imaging is dedicated to providing full service breast cancer care. We were the first practice in South Jersey to provide full field digital mammography services, have radiologists who specialize in breast imaging and biopsies, and now provide high risk breast cancer screening services.

Some women are at particularly high risk for developing breast cancer and need individualized screening programs. Mammography, combined with physical exams, has been the standard tool used in breast cancer screening. Unfortunately, 10-15% of breast cancers will not be detected on mammography. An even higher number of breast cancers will go undetected on physical exams. Fortunately, there is a new tool that can be used to check for breast cancer.

Breast MRI has been shown to be much more sensitive in detecting breast cancer than any other test. Multiple studies have shown that 90-95% of invasive breast cancers will be detected on breast MRI. If breast MRI is such a sensitive test for detecting cancer, why isn't it used for all women? The reason breast MRI is used selectively in screening for cancer is that, for the average woman, too many of the suspicious findings on breast MRI are caused by benign findings such as fibrocystic change. Screening low-risk patients will therefore lead to many unnecessary breast biopsies.

Most breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. However, there are several factors that increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Some women have genes that markedly increase their risk of developing breast cancer. Women whose close relatives developed breast cancer at young age may also have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

If breast MRI is used as a screening tool for these high risk women, a higher proportion of the abnormalities seen on MRI will in fact be early cancers, and the exam becomes an effective screening tool with high accuracy. Several studies have shown that when screening high risk women, breast MRI will detect 2-3 additional cancers per hundred women when compared to mammography, and is an effective screening exam.

The American Cancer Society now recommends that yearly breast MRI exams be performed in addition to mammography on women who have a 20% or greater risk of developing cancer and should be considered in women with a 15-20% risk of cancer. By reviewing your medical history, and using simple risk assessment tools, your doctor can estimate your breast cancer risk. The most commonly used risk assessment tool is the Gail Model. You can check your own risk by completing the questionnaire on the National Cancer Institute's Web site.

Most major insurance companies cover these breast MRI services based upon the American Cancer Society's Guidelines. Speak to your doctor if you are concerned about your risk for breast cancer. Breast MRI may be an appropriate test for you.