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MRI Recommended for Breast Cancer Screening

Study finds MRI has high sensitivity, specificity for contralateral breast cancer

WEDNESDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) -- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the contralateral breast in women with breast cancer can detect occult cancers that are missed by mammography, according to study findings published online March 28 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The results were released at the same time as new guidelines from the American Cancer Society (ACS), which recommend annual MRIs in addition to mammograms for high-risk women.

The ACS suggests that MRIs be conducted along with mammograms beginning at age 30 in women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations, a 20 to 25 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer, chest irradiation between the ages of 10 and 30 or other high-risk conditions, such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome.

In the study, Constance D. Lehman, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, and colleagues performed MRI on the contralateral breast of 969 women with a recent diagnosis of unilateral breast cancer. The women showed no signs of cancer in the contralateral breast by clinical or mammographic examination.

The researchers found cancer in the contralateral breast of 3.1 percent of the women, with a sensitivity of 91 percent, a specificity of 88 percent and a negative predictive value of 99 percent.

"This study gives us a clearer indication that if an MRI of the opposite breast is negative, women diagnosed with cancer in only one breast can more confidently opt against having a double (or bilateral) mastectomy," said John E. Niederhuber, M.D., director of the National Cancer Institute, in a statement.

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