Newer Breast Scan May Spare Unnecessary Biopsies

MR spectroscopy caught all cancers, new study found

TUESDAY, May 30, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A type of screening called magnetic resonance spectroscopy may reduce the need for biopsies of breast abnormalities by 58 percent, researchers report.

A team at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City found that when MR spectroscopy was conducted in addition to MRI screening for breast abnormalities, 23 out of the 40 masses would not have needed biopsy -- and all of the cancers would have been caught.

"All cancers in this study were identified with MR spectroscopy. There were no false-negative results," said lead researcher Dr. Lia Bartella, an assistant professor in the Department of Breast Imaging at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. "With the addition of MR spectroscopy to our breast MRI exam, we found that the number of biopsies recommended on the basis of MRI findings decreased significantly. These results should encourage more women to take this potentially lifesaving test."

In the study, 56 patients with 57 breast abnormalities were screened in three ways: first using standard MRIs, then with MR spectroscopy, and finally by biopsy.

"Breast tumors have elevated levels of choline compounds, which are a marker of an active tumor," Bartella said. "By performing a brief MR spectroscopy procedure after an MRI scan, which takes only 10 additional minutes, we can noninvasively see which tumors show elevated choline levels, and therefore which lesions are likely malignant. This eliminates the need for biopsy to find out what the tumor is made of."

As reported in the June issue of Radiology, biopsy results confirmed 31 malignancies and 26 benign masses. After results of all three tests were compared, all 31 malignant masses were correctly identified using MR spectroscopy (100 percent sensitivity), 23 of 26 benign masses identified with MR spectroscopy (88 percent sensitivity). The three incorrectly diagnosed masses showed higher levels of choline on the MR spectroscopy, but were discovered to be benign upon biopsy.

"MR spectroscopy is fast and well-tolerated, and could be readily incorporated into a breast MRI examination," said Bartella. "By reducing the number of benign biopsies recommended at MRI, the use of MR spectroscopy will not only reduce patient morbidity, but will save unnecessary anxiety, cost and time for both the patient and the medical staff."

More information

For more on breast cancer, head to the U.S. National Breast Cancer Foundation.

SOURCES: Radiological Society of North America, news release, May 30, 2006
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