Second-look ultrasounds useful in young women at high risk for breast cancer

According to a new study published in the journal Clinical Radiology, targeted second-look ultrasounds and ultrasound-targeted biopsies are relatively cheap and useful for young women who are at high risk of breast cancer who have already undergone MRIs.

The women were considered to be at a high risk of contracting breast cancer if they had had genetic testing that indicated a high-risk mutation or if they had certain familial characteristics. Getting a precise look at the potential breast cancer indicators that showed up in MRIs before taking further treatment steps could be useful in better understanding an individual’s cancer and eliminating false results in this type of cancer screening.

The study looked at 139 women who had undergone high-risk MRI breast screenings in Australia between 2012 and 2014. Of those women, 30 of them (at an average age of 37) were called back to get a second, closer examination of 45 possible breast lesions through a targeted second look ultrasound. Thirty-four of the lesions previously identified in the MRIs were identified in the ultrasound, and then 19 of those proceeded to an ultrasound-guided biopsy. And nine of the 11 lesions seen on MRI (but not ultrasound) proceeded to an MRI biopsy.

Of the 139 women who were originally screened with an MRI, two of them were found to have cancer. They both had the cancer removed and both had undergone a targeted second look.

The researchers concluded that for this particular population (Australian women under the age of 50), targeted second looks and ultrasound-guided biopsies make the most financial and medical sense for more closely examining potential lesions already detected through MRIs. That’s because the medical results of detected cancers showed the results and because of Australia’s Medicare policy that now allows for reimbursement of such procedures. Even still, an MRI-guided biopsy should still be considered for women whose lesions appeared on MRIs but not ultrasounds.