We are always watching for news when it comes to women’s imaging and in particular breast imaging. We found a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, showing that we may be getting closer to making MRI breast imaging a more widely available screening tool for breast cancer.
Currently breast MRI exams take 30 - 40 minutes. These tests are difficult for some to tolerate as it can be uncomfortable to position on your stomach for this period of time. The exam is also expensive and not covered by all insurance plans. These are some of the factors limiting the role of MRI breast imaging as a screening tool. This new article is exciting as it shows a way of eliminating some of the barriers MRI breast imaging has in becoming a more widely used screening exam.
MRI breast imaging is excellent at finding breast cancer, even in women with dense breast tissue shown on their mammogram. It is currently recommended in addition to mammography for screening women with a strong family history of breast cancer, a genetic risk of breast cancer and in other groups like those having undergone chest irradiation as a child or teen. MRI breast studies evaluate not just anatomy but also assess enhancement of tissue by using IV contrast material and getting multiple images.
Normal tissue and breast cancer enhance differently allowing the sensitive identification of cancer from background tissue. This recent study used fewer series or sequences of MR images and shortened imaging times, while still allowing the identification of breast abnormalities. This new protocol means a significantly faster scan time. With fewer series being run and less time on the machine, the cost of this shortened test will be lower than a traditional breast MRI.
There are still investigational steps to be done before these shortened breast MRI exams become widely available. The success of this study needs to be confirmed in a larger group of women and by other groups. Here are the great What Ifs… What if instead of a traditional MRI taking 30+ minutes, it took only three? What if breast MRIs done with the newer, faster protocol were just as effective at the early detection of cancer? What if the cost allowed screening of more women with breast MRI?
So far, the results of this study show promise in expanding the role of breast MRI in screening more women. Cheers to a speedy route to your best possible health!
Originally published 8/28/14 on mammographykc.com.