September 9, 2008

MRI May Not Help Breast Cancer Patients

Magnetic resonance imaging may not be a benefit for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, U.S. researchers say.

Dr. Richard J. Bleicher of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia says MRIs can delay treatment by three weeks and they provide a large number of false-positive results -- tests results that indicate cancer, when no cancer exists.

"Other studies have demonstrated that false-positives often represent over-treatment because many of the mastectomies are later proven by pathology to have been unnecessary," Bleicher said in a statement.

Bleicher and colleagues analyzed of 577 breast cancer patients -- 130 of whom have had MRIs prior to treatment.

"Those who received an MRI had a three-week delay in the start of their treatment," Bleicher said.

"The study also revealed that younger women were more likely to have an MRI. In our analysis, that trend didn't correspond with various breast cancer risk factors, such as a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, nor with the characteristics of their disease."

In addition to the treatment delay, there is concern that the well-documented false-positive rate with MRIs may be leading, or misleading, women into choosing mastectomies, when they may have been candidates for a lesser procedure -- lumpectomy -- Bleicher said.

The findings were presented before the ASCO Breast Cancer Symposium in Washington.