Interest in breast MRI among physicians in the United States is surging – and with good reason. In addition to growing evidence confirming the value of MRI for early detection of breast cancer, new breakthroughs such as computer-aided detection (CAD) are causing physicians to take a second look at the technology as an effective screening and diagnosis tool. Today, more and more physicians are turning to MRI when they require highly sensitive images of a patient’s breast. Many have found that, when used in conjunction with computer-aided detection (CAD) software, MRI can help detect abnormalities deep within the breast – growths that may have previously gone undetected. In addition, long-awaited practice guidelines are helping to optimize specificity and standardization, bringing the procedure that much closer to becoming a common, reliable diagnostic tool. These guidelines are also helping breast MRI referrers determine the best candidates for the procedure.
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Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of breast MRI is the usefulness of the data when it comes to differential diagnosis and decisions about treatment options. MRI’s more comprehensive interpretations help physicians and patients better determine treatment steps.
Overall, radiologists and specialists alike believe MRI is beginning to contribute to lower cancer recurrence rates due to its ability to detect early cancers that could go unnoticed by conventional mammography for years. In addition, multisite studies have shown that MRI was more than two times as effective as mammography in detecting multiple tumors.
The clinical advantages of breast MRI are quite clear: determining the extent of a patient’s breast cancer, monitoring response to therapy, and screening high risk patients. According to the American Society of Breast Surgeons, the procedure should be performed for the following reasons:
Not any time soon. In fact, breast MRI should be considered an additional tool to improve our present combination of mammography and ultrasound. Also, mammograms are better than MRI at detecting calcifications, which may be one of the early signs of breast cancer.
As with mammography or ultrasound, there is the potential for false positives with breast MRI. For example, with mammography, only one in five biopsies will prove to be cancerous. MRI is slightly better in this regard, but because the test is so sensitive, false positives still occur due to benign tumors and other conditions.
With mammography, a certain type of very small calcifications can be an early indication of cancer. However, breast MRI cannot detect calcifications. Instead, different markers for cancer are used, including the blood flow of the tumor, as well as the size and appearance of the tumor.
When considered a medical necessity, most insurers, including Medicare and Medicaid, will cover the procedure. To learn more, call 315-454-4810.
For more details on MRI breast imaging, or for information on the referral process, contact the imaging experts at the following MDR locations:
St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center
Always check with your insurance company for prior authorization.