MRIs could help detect breast cancer, new study finds

Adding MRI screening to mammograms could help detect cancer in women with dense breast tissue, though it comes with a high false-positive rate, according to a study published Nov. 28 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

About 40 percent of all women have dense breast tissue, and 10 percent have extremely dense tissue, according to Time, which can make it more challenging to detect cancer. A new two-year  study of 40,373 women in the Netherlands examined the difference in cancer detection rates for women receiving an MRI and mammogram and those just receiving a mammogram.

Researchers analyzed data from women with extremely dense breast tissue between 50 and 75 years old. A quarter of the women (8,061) were invited to have an MRI along with a mammogram, while the rest (32,312) only received a mammogram. Over half (59 percent) of the women invited to have an MRI accepted. 

The study examined the rate of interval cancers, or cancers diagnosed after a negative mammogram and before the next mammogram was scheduled. In women with both types of imaging, the detection rate was 2.5 per 1,000 screenings, compared to 5 per 1,000 for those just getting mammograms. The MRI cancer detection rate among women who got an MRI was 16.5 per 1,000 screenings. However, the false-positive rate was 79.8 per 1,000 screenings.  

Before all women with dense breast tissue get MRIs on top of regular mammogram screenings, more research must be done and the rates of false positives for MRIs must decrease, Time reports.

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