Technology Improves Once Again: Breast MRI
So by now you’ve heard us talk a lot about dense breast issues (seriously, lots. and lots.) And you know that cancer can be masked by dense tissue on mammograms – which makes breast MRI particularly useful. Breast MRI has great sensitivity – meaning it can find cancers when present in a large majority of patients – even in patients with dense breast tissue. However, breast MRI is time-consuming (30-45 minutes of imaging time on average) and expensive (at least 7 times the cost of a screening mammogram typically).
A new proposed shortened MRI screening protocol could help to change those issues. We, Dr. Harrison and Dr. McGhie, are particularly excited about this because it has always been our professional opinion that MRIs provide the most sensitive screening for women with dense breasts.
Newer breast MRI protocols are being evaluated that will reduce imaging time and therefore hopefully costs without sacrificing accuracy. If these initial findings can be proven in larger populations of women, it may make it possible to screen more women with breast MRI. Huzzah!
Originally presented at the Radiological Society of North America 2012, a study evaluating a new shortened protocol for breast MRI was innovative and full of potential. These shorter MRI protocols are currently being implemented in Michigan by Dr. David Strahle. If you live in Michigan, here’s where you might want to pay close attention:
As of November 18th, HealthPlus of Michigan will begin paying for annual breast MRI screening using the less expensive shortened protocols in addition to mammography for women who have at least 50% dense breast tissue. In most states, screening breast MRI is covered by insurance for those falling in high-risk categories only. If further study supports the initial results of good accuracy with the shortened MRI, perhaps this trend can expand to include more women.
We look forward to further research into this and other ways of improving our job of finding breast cancer. More accurate, faster and cheaper – that would be ideal!
Originally published 10/21/13 on mammographykc.com.