RSNA 2017: Alternative approach to mammography shows promise

Dense breast tissue presents problems for detecting cancer—often leading to additional screenings after negative or questionable mammograms. But at RSNA 2017 in Chicago, a research team discussed abbreviated breast MRI (AB-MR), a new method to screen asymptomatic women with dense breasts.

The study, conducted by researchers from Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, included 195 women who had a negative mammogram within the last 11 months. AB-MR detected five additional cancers, compared to a detection rate of mammography of four in 1,000.

“Having dense breast tissue makes it more difficult to detect a cancer on a mammogram,” said lead author Susan Weinstein, MD, an associate professor of radiology at Penn Medicine. “Based on the literature and our results, women with dense breast tissue who desire supplemental screening, these results suggest that AB-MR may be a better option than other supplemental screening tests such as whole breast ultrasound.”

Digital tomosynthesis (DBT) does slightly better than traditional mammography, detecting approximately 25 percent more cancers, or roughly five cancers in 1,000 women screened.

AB-MR has shown potential in diagnosing cancer in women with dense breast tissue, but cost remains a significant issue.