MRI Can Spot Breast Cancer in High-Risk Women: Study

Compared with mammograms, scans are better for those at-risk, but cost needs to be lowered

TUESDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- New research finds that compared to mammograms, MRI screenings for breast cancer saved money used for diagnosis and boosted the likelihood that high-risk, underserved women who were specially targeted would return for follow-up appointments.

But there's a big catch. Researchers were able to reduce the cost of an MRI scan to $649 on average -- compared to the usual $3,500 -- thanks to a grant. As a result, the cost per diagnosis was cheaper -- $21,561 for cancers found using MRI and $37,375 for those found using mammography.

"What we need is to lower the cost of MRI, and maybe that will happen as we do more of them," lead researcher Dr. Anne C. Ford, assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University Medical Center, said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research.

In the study, the researchers compared two groups of women, all of whom were uninsured or underinsured. One group included 299 women with general risk factors who received mammography, and the other included 299 high-risk, underserved women who underwent MRI screening.

The mammography screenings detected one case of breast cancer, while the MRI screenings detected nine.

"In an underserved population, using this model, it is cost effective to screen with MRI because we found more breast cancers with MRI than we did with mammography in this population," Ford explained in the news release. "If you truly target high-risk women with MRIs, you can find the cancers, and you can find them early."

Three-quarters of women who received mammography followed up with screenings compared to 90 percent of those who underwent MRI screenings, the investigators found.

Results of the study were scheduled to be released Tuesday at the American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Washington D.C. Because the study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

For more about breast cancer, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Randy Dotinga SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Sept. 20, 2011

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