A new study finds MRIs are significantly better at detecting cancers in women at high risk of developing cancers than standard mammograms or clinical breast exams.
The study involved around 1,900 women with a lifetime breast cancer risk of 15 percent. The group included 358 women who also carried one of the genes known to put women at particularly high risk for the disease. All of the women received a clinical breast exam every six months and annual MRIs and mammograms. They were followed for about three years.
Results showed MRI was significantly more sensitive in detecting breast cancers than mammography. Overall, 45 breast cancers were detected during the study . MRI detected 32 cancers, 22 of which were missed by mammography. Mammography detected 18 cancers, eight of which were missed by MRI. One of the cancers was detected by clinical breast exam alone, and the other four were detected in-between screenings.
There was a downside to the study -- researchers also found MRIs were more likely to lead to false-positive results. MRI resulted in twice as many unnecessary additional exams than mammography, and three times as many unnecessary biopsies.
Thus researchers say the drawback of MRI screening is that it has a lower specificity than mammography.