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MRI versus Mammography in Breast Cancer Screening

10th August 2007

The research paper by Professor Kuhl and colleagues has looked at an important area of development for breast cancer screening. However, it is important to interpret their findings in context with the selection of patients in the study.

It shows that MRI has a higher sensitivity than mammography for detection of non-invasive breast cancer in a selected high risk groups of women. This fact is already known for invasive breast cancer. Because of this, MRI is already in use in the country with an established role for certain selected groups of women who would benefit

There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that MRI should, or even could, be used to replace mammography for routine breast screening.

Over half of Professor Kuhl’s group of women had already been identified as having a suspiciously abnormal mammogram and the breast cancer detection rate in her highly selected study was over 10 times that of a normal screening population. The benign biopsy rate was unacceptably high for a routine screening programme.

In summary, mammography – and in particular digital mammography – remains the most balanced and effective screening method in terms of sensitivity for detection of early breast cancer and specifically for avoiding unnecessary, costly and anxiety provoking benign biopsies. MRI has an already established role in highly selected groups.