FRIDAY, Dec. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans may be helpful for earlier breast cancer diagnoses in high-risk patients, finding more cancers at less advanced stages, according to research presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, held from Dec. 9 to 13.
Ellen Warner, M.D., of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, and colleagues divided 1,275 women -- each having the defective BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation -- into two groups. One group received screening via MRI plus mammography, while, serving as a control, the other group received conventional screening by mammography.
The researchers noted that 41 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in the women in the MRI group, compared to 76 cases in the control group. However, women in the MRI group were diagnosed with more early-stage and fewer advanced cancers. The researchers also found cancers to be smaller in the MRI group, with an average size of invasive cancers 0.9 cm compared to 1.8 cm in the control group.
"We can be fairly confident that if screening with MRI finds cancers at a much earlier stage, it probably also saves lives," said Warner, in a prepared statement. "These results will hopefully convince high-risk women and their health care providers that breast screening with yearly MRI and mammography is a reasonable alternative to surgical removal of their breasts, which is commonly done to prevent breast cancer."