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Breast MRI Before Surgery Doesn’t Reduce Recurrence Risk

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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 before surgery to help surgeons plan the best approach to surgery. The findings also may influence the treatment plan both before and after surgery.

A new study suggests that having a breast MRI before breast cancer surgery doesn’t lower the risk of the cancer coming back (recurrence), either in the breast area (local recurrence) or in a part of the body away from the breast (distant recurrence).

The research was published in the Feb. 10, 2014 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Read the abstract of “An Individual Person Data Meta-Analysis of Preoperative Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Breast Cancer Recurrence.”

This study was a meta-analysis – a study that combines and analyzes the results of many earlier studies. In this case, the results of 3,196 women in four studies looking at whether MRI reduced recurrence risk were analyzed.

All the women had been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and were about 56 years old. Half of the women had a breast MRI before surgery and half did not. Most of the women had lumpectomy surgery:

  • 92.9% of the women who didn’t have an MRI had lumpectomy
  • 85.1% of the women who had an MRI had lumpectomy

After 8 years of follow-up, there were no differences in the rates of local recurrence between women who had an MRI before surgery and women who did not:

  • about 3% of the women who had an MRI had a local recurrence
  • about 5% of the women who didn’t have an MRI had a local recurrence

There also was no difference in the rates of distance recurrence between women who had an MRI and women who did not:

  • about 11% of the women who had an MRI had a distant recurrence
  • about 7% of the women who didn’t have an MRI had a distant recurrence

Use of breast MRI before surgery isn’t 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.

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, make sure you talk to your doctor about all your treatment options. You and your doctor will consider a number of factors when deciding on how to treat the disease, including:

  • the characteristics of the cancer
  • your age
  • any other health problems you have
  • your medical history
  • the results of any genetic testing you may have had
  • your preferences

Together, you and your doctor will come up with a treatment plan that makes the most sense for you and your unique situation.

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