Researchers from the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania today presented the first comprehensive study results which show that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is significantly better than traditional mammography for detecting the presence and extent of disease in patients with a diagnosis of breast cancer. The research has significant implications for women considering surgical options – other than a full mastectomy – to remove their breast cancer, such as a lumpectomy. Indeed, an MRI is recommended for all women considering surgical options, in order to detect the full extent of the breast cancer prior to surgery, yet preserve as much healthy breast tissue as possible. Abramson researchers led the first international, multi-site group of researchers to study the subject – the International Breast MRI Consortium (IBMC) – and presented their results at the 40th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology in New Orleans.
“There has never really been a gold standard for detecting how many tumors or how widespread is a women’s breast cancer,” said study principal investigator and professor Mitchell Schnall, MD, PhD, a radiologist at the Cancer Center and chief of the MRI section at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. “These study results are very conclusive that breast MRI works better for detecting breast cancer, and physicians – when evaluating surgical options for breast conservation – should be using MRI over traditional mammography with physical exam for determining how widespread the tumors are and how much tissue really needs to be removed.”
The study – at 17 different sites throughout the US, Canada and Germany – examined more than 1000 women, most of whom were over the age of 40, for a period of three years. All of the women had suspicious lesions on their mammograms, which required further investigation to see if cancer was present. Each participant had both follow-up mammograms and MRIs. Cancer was confirmed by a biopsy, surgical removal and microscopic examination of the tissue. Of the 428 women who had breast cancer, MRI detected additional cancerous lesions in 56 women, while mammograms detected additional lesions in only 17. In statistical terms, MRI was more than 2 times as effective than mammography in detecting multiple tumors.
Rebecca Harmon | UPMC
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