Women at high risk of getting breast cancer in UK are now eliglble for annual MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans between the ages of 20-49. Studies show that this disease which kills more than 13,000 women yearly in the UK can be detected by the scan in younger women.Around 5% of the breast cancer cases are hereditary.
Women with a family history of breast cancer can undergo a test for the faulty versions of the genes responsible for it(BRCA1 and BRCA2). Those who test positive are 85% likely to get the cancer compared to the 11% chance in the average women. Women who carry another flawed gene (TP53) are at an even higher risk. They will be entitled to yearly scans from age 20.
Other guidelines have been established by the National Institute For Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for doctors to determine eligibility . Those carrying defective genes BRCA 1&2, or with a 10 year risk over 8% can have the scans done from age 30. For the 40-49 age group, the risk factor has to be greater than 20% over 10 years, or 12% in those with cloudy mammograms,to be eligible for the scan.
So far the high risk women have been given annual mammograms from the age of 40, which only caught 40% of the cases. So several women opt to have their breasts removed as a drastic but precautionary measure which will now not be neccesary. NICE Chief Executive announced that studies have shown MRI scans to be extremely sensitive in detecting the cancer in its ealy stages in younger women and therefore the recommendation.
The problem is going to be the cost factor. An MRI scan is 10 times more expensive than a mammogram which is 35 pounds. Also the waiting period for the scan due to staff and equioment shortage might turn out to be too long.
All the same the move is a welcome one and is appreciated by breast cancer support groups all over the country.