MRI Breast Cancer Screening May Be Cost Effective for Women with Familial Risk

March 21, 2012

Adding MRI to breast cancer screening is expensive but may be cost effective for women with a family history of breast cancer - even if they don’t have the BRCA1/2 gene mutation, researchers found.

Adding MRI to breast cancer screening is expensive but may be cost effective for women with a family history of breast cancer - even if they don’t have the BRCA1/2 gene mutation, researchers found.

Women who have the BRCA1/2 gene or who have a 50 percent or higher chance of carrying it already undergo MRI screening because of their high risk of developing breast cancer. However, there was a question if such screening would be cost effective for women who do not have the gene, but who do have first and/or second degree relatives with breast cancer. This relationship increases their risk of developing breast cancer by the age of 70 by 20 percent or more.

To address this question, Dutch researchers screened 1,597 women who had an estimated cumulative lifetime risk of 15 percent to 50 percent for developing breast cancer before they were 70 years old. The women underwent clinical breast exams every six months and annual mammograms and MRIs between 1999 and 2007. The results of the study, which were presented earlier today at the eighth European Breast Cancer Conference in Vienna, Austria, showed that adding MRI to the standard screening could be cost effective in select sub-groups.

“We found that it costs approximately three times as much to add MRI to the screening process for every estimated one year of life saved,” said Sepideh Saadatmand, MD, a physician and PhD student at Erasmus University Medical Center, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The cost of screening with the MRI per detected cancer was about €103,000. “We predicted that screening women between the ages of 35 to 60 in this way would reduce deaths from breast cancer by 24 percent, at a cost per year of life gained of €30,000,” she added.

To looking into this further, Saadatmand is involved in another study that is currently screening women between the ages of 35 and 55, who have a family history of breast cancer and a cumulative lifetime risk of 20 percent or higher.

“The results of the cost-effectiveness study presented today are likely to be of relevance to other countries that have screening programs similar to the Netherlands, such as the UK and the Scandinavian countries,” concluded Saadatmand.