Breast MRI Useful Before Breast Cancer Surgery

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Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help doctors identify cancer lesions and other suspicious areas undetectable on a mammogram or ultrasound of the breasts. The test may be ordered in women with newly diagnosed breast cancer prior to surgery in order to help surgeons plan the best approach to surgery. The findings may also influence the treatment plan both before and after surgery.

Use of breast MRI prior to surgery is not routine, and often the test is reserved for women with dense breasts since cancer and other breast abnormalities can be somewhat harder to see on mammogram or ultrasound in these women.

Still, the findings of a small research study from the Yale Medical School suggest that breast MRI is equally likely to detect additional important findings before surgery in women whose breasts are not considered dense as in women with dense breasts. The findings, presented May 4, 2012 at the annual meeting of the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS), suggest that many women with a recent diagnosis of breast cancer may benefit from undergoing breast MRI before surgery.

The Yale researchers evaluated the medical records of 127 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and who had a breast MRI before breast cancer surgery. They looked at how often the MRI found additional breast cancer lesions, and compared those results among women with dense breasts to results among women whose breasts were not considered dense.

  • Breast MRI detected additional breast cancer in 26% of the women who had breasts not considered dense, compared to 25% of the women with dense breasts.
  • In some cases, the MRI detected additional cancer in an area of the breast not near the initially diagnosed breast cancer, or in the opposite breast. In these cases, the findings influenced the planned surgical approach. This was as likely to have happened in the women whose breasts were not considered dense as in the women with dense breasts.

Based on their analysis, the researchers suggest that breast MRI is useful for evaluation before breast cancer surgery, whether or not a woman’s breasts are considered dense.

If you have recently been diagnosed with early breast cancer and are working with your doctor to plan your surgery and other treatments, you should consider talking to your doctor about the findings from this research and whether a breast MRI could be useful for you in planning your treatment.

For more information, visit the Breastcancer.org Breast MRI pages.

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