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Breast MRI in addition to Mammography helps in early detection of breast cancer

Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an imaging test that creates detailed pictures of the insides of the breast. Although, its not regularly used for breast cancer screening but it can help in detecting breast cancer at stage zero for women who are at high risk of developing the disease. However, it’s not a replacement for mammography but can be used as a supplementary tool. Breast MRI is the most sensitive technique in the detection of breast cancer aiding in the screening of high risk patients and pre-surgical planning.

It also helps in identifying additional aggressive cancers. According to a study published in the journal Radiology ,additional cancers found with MRI are sometimes larger and more aggressive than those found on mammography. Multicentric cancers , meaning cancer in more than one area of the breast, can be effectively detected in MRI screening. It is also effective in detecting cancer in women with dense breasts.

"Patients with clinically insignificant cancers undergoing potential overtreatment versus patients who may be undertreated is at the heart of the controversy surrounding breast MRI," said the study's lead author Chiara Iacconi, M.D., from the Breast Unit at USL1 Massa-Carrara in Carrara, Italy. For further research, Dr lacconi and colleagues reviewed the records of around 2021 patients with newly diagnosed breast cancer who underwent biopsy after preoperative MRI. It was found that around 285 patients were detected with additional cancers in the MRI which wasn’t shown on mammography.In 73 of those 285 patients atleast one additional cancer in a different quadrant of the breast was identified. And in 25% of the 73 patients, the multicentric cancers detected were greater than 1cm in size. 

"The results show that multicentric cancer detected on breast MRI after mammography appears to represent a larger tumor burden in approximately a quarter of patients and can result in potential changes to cancer grade and treatment," Dr. Iacconi said.

Although an MRI may be more likely to find cancer than mammography, it often misses some cancers that mammography easily detects. For women with an average risk of breast cancer, mammography is still the standard method for diagnosing early-stage breast cancer.

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