MRI Screening May Detect Breast Cancer Earlier Among BRCA Carriers

Posted on December 11th, 2009 by

The addition of MRI to mammography screening in women with a BRCA mutation appears to significantly reduce the incidence of advanced breast cancer, according to the results of a study presented at the 2009 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.[1]

Women who carry a BRCA mutation are at a higher risk for developing breast cancer and therefore may benefit from additional approaches to screening. For years, mammography has been the standard in breast cancer screening; however, MRI has been shown to be more sensitive than mammography, Researchers continue to evaluate the optimal screening strategy.

Canadian researchers divided 1,275 women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation into two groups: one group (445 women) was screened with MRI plus mammography and the second group, a control group (830 women), was screened with mammography alone. The women were followed for several years in order to determine which screening method detected cancer at an earlier stage.

After six years there were 41 cases of breast cancer in the MRI group and 76 in the control group. At six years, the cumulative incidence of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and Stage I breast cancer was 12.7% in the MRI group compared with 9.5% in the control group. Comparatively, the cumulative incidence of Stage II-IV breast cancers at six years was 2.0% in the MRI group and 7.1% in the control group.

The researchers noted that there were proportionately fewer advanced breast cancers and more early cancers among women screened with MRI compared with those in the control group. In addition, cancer size was smaller in the MRI group. The researchers concluded that annual screening with MRI plus mammography is associated with a significant reduction in the incidence of advanced cancers among BRCA carriers.


[1] Warner E. A prospective study of breast cancer incidence and stage distribution in women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation under surveillance with and without magnetic resonance imaging. Presented at the 32nd CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. December 9-13, 2009. San Antonio, TX. Abstract 26.

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