What is the role of MRI in the workup of breast cancer?

Updated: Feb 04, 2021
  • Author: Pavani Chalasani, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: John V Kiluk, MD, FACS  more...
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In an effort to overcome the limitations of mammography and ultrasonography, MRI has been explored as a modality for detecting breast cancer in women at high risk and in younger women. A combination of T1, T2, and 3-D contrast-enhanced MRI techniques has been found to possess high sensitivity (approximating 86-100% in combination with mammography and clinical breast examination) to malignant changes in the breast. (See Magnetic Resonance Mammography.)

In an observational study by Buist et al that included more than 2 million screenings in over 800,000 women, MRI screening for breast cancer was associated with higher rates of subsequent biopsy but a lower yield of cancer findings. In women with a breast cancer history, biopsy rates were more than twofold higher after MRI than after mammography alone; in women with no history of breast cancer, biopsy rates were more than fivefold higher. [104]

In women with a past history of breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ or invasive disease was found in 404.6 per 1000 biopsies  following mammography versus 267.7 per 1000 biopsies following MRI, a significant difference. Yield was nonsignificantly higher after mammography in women without a history of breast cancer: 279.3 versus 214.6 per 1000, respectively. [104]

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