Combining MRI and Mammography Screening May Reduce Breast Cancer Deaths for High Risk Women

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A new study in the March issue of Radiology reported that combining mammography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be a cost effective way to reduce the chances of dying for high risk breast cancer women. An increased lifetime risk of developing breast cancer occurs in women with mutations of the BRCA1 gene and using mammography for screening this group (the usual method) detects less than half of the breast cancers.

The researchers compared the cost and benefits of mammography and of MRI’s separately and in combination in a hypothetical group of 25 year old women with BRCA1 mutations. Using a statistical modeling technique to estimate the number of quality adjusted years added by screening and the lifetime costs they concluded that an annual combined screening was best at detecting early stage cancer and at providing the best relative reduction in deaths. Using the combination was most cost effective as the risk of breast cancer increased and least cost effective as it decreased. These findings support the current screening recommendations of the American Cancer Assn.

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