Study: High risk breast cancer needs MRI detection

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Women with a high genetic risk for breast cancer run a better chance of having it detected with MRI than with mammography and other methods, according to a study published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.

The kind of breast cancer involved is caused by mutations of the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, believed responsible for 5 percent to 10 percent of all breast cancer cases. Women with the mutations have a significantly higher risk of breast cancer.

Researchers at Canada's Toronto-Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Center said they studied 236 women with the mutations aged 25 to 65 who underwent annual screenings from 1997 to 2003 using all methods.

They found that 17 cancers in the group were detected by MRI, compared with eight by mammography, seven by ultrasound and two by semi-annual clinical breast examinations.

"Our results support the position that MRI-based screening is likely to become the cornerstone of breast cancer surveillance for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers, but it is necessary to demonstrate that this surveillance tool lowers breast cancer mortality before it can be recommended for general use," the report added.