Abbreviated MRI Effective in Screening Women With Breast Cancer History

March 26, 2020

Shortened protocol identifies more cancers than ultrasound or mammography.

Shorter screening protocols with breast MRI can still pinpoint cancer recurrences for women with a history of breast cancer.

According to a March 12 study published in PLOS One, the 11-minute abbreviated MRI protocol discovered nearly a dozen cancers that other alternative screening modalities couldn’t find.

Previous breast cancer treatments can create several problems that can interfere with the efficacy of future mammograms. Increased breast density, scarring, and fibrosis have been known to cause architectural distortions in mammography images. But, the new research, conducted by a team from the Catholic University of Korea’s St. Vincent’s Hospital in Suwon, South Korea, indicated that, even with these problems and a shorter protocol time, MRI could find malignancies ultrasound and mammography overlook.

“Our data suggest that [abbreviated MRI] can improve cancer detecgtion with a short image acquisition time and high diagnostic performance in women with a [personal history] of breast cancer,” wrote lead study author Yeong Yi An, Ph.D. “Furthermore, [abbreviated MRI] can depict biologically relevant cancer at an early stage in women a [personal history] of breast cancer.”

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There are several benefits to abbreviated MRI, the authors wrote. Not only does it offer shorter acquisition time than the traditional protocol while providing similar diagnostic accuracy, but it’s also less expensive that conventional MRI. Together, these positives make it an attractive and competitive option when compared to ultrasound and mammography for breast cancer screening.

To test whether abbreviated MRI could be a feasible supplementary screening option for women who have already had breast cancer surgery, the team enrolled 763 women, who had a breast cancer history and who had received treatment between October 2015 and October 2016, into the study.

Every woman received a mammogram and ultrasound screening every six months for two years, followed, then, by annual screenings. Simultaneously, they also received the 11-minute abbreviated MRI. From these images, the investigators identified 21 recurrent tumors – about half of which were visible only on MRI. Most malignancies – 15 tumors – were identified from the first MRI screenings. The remaining six were picked up during the second round.

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Of the cancer distinguished by abbreviated MRI, the majority were invasive malignancies, accounting for 80 percent of first-round tumors and 83 percent of those pinpointed during the follow-up round. The researchers also noted that more than 90 percent of the cancers were tumor in situ or nodule-negative T1 lesions.

The team also analyzed the specificity, negative predictive value, and accuracy of abbreviated MRI. According to their analysis, these factors were similar to those of combined ultrasound and mammography.

Consequently, the researchers asserted abbreviated MRI can be added to the arsenal of tools used to screen women with a breast cancer history.

“[Abbreviated MRI] can be considered a useful post-operative surveillance tool in women with a [personal history] of breast cancer,” they wrote.