Annual screening with breast ultrasound or MRI could benefit some women

December 02, 2009

CHICAGO - Results of a large-scale clinical trial presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) provide the first strong evidence of the benefit of annual screening ultrasound for women with dense breasts who are at elevated risk for breast cancer. In addition, the study confirmed that MRI is highly sensitive in depicting early breast cancer.

"We found that annual screening with ultrasound in addition to mammography significantly improves the detection of early breast cancer," said lead researcher Wendie A. Berg, M.D., Ph.D., breast imaging specialist at American Radiology Services, Johns Hopkins - Green Spring Station in Lutherville, Md., "and that significantly more early breast cancer can be found when MRI is performed, even after combined screening with both ultrasound and mammography. However, both ultrasound and MRI increase the risk of false-positive findings."

Women who are at high risk for breast cancer need to begin screening at a younger age, because they often develop cancer earlier than women at average risk. However, women below age 50 are more likely to have dense breast tissue, which can limit the effectiveness of mammography as a screening tool.

Multicenter trials have shown that MRI enables radiologists to accurately identify tumors missed by mammography and ultrasound. The American Cancer Society recommends that some groups of women with a high risk of developing breast cancer should be screened with MRI in addition to their yearly mammogram beginning at age 30. However, MRI is not for everyone.

"Because MRI is a very expensive test and requires intravenous contrast, it is something we only recommend for screening the approximately 2 percent of women who are known or likely carriers of BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations or have other unusual circumstances that put them at very high risk for breast cancer," Dr. Berg said.

"There are another 10 to 15 percent of women who are at some increased risk because of personal history of breast cancer, family history of breast cancer and/or dense breast tissue," she added. "For many of these women, MRI is not currently justified, but annual ultrasound would be appropriate in addition to mammography."

The researchers studied 612 women, mean age 55 years, at elevated risk of breast cancer enrolled at 14 sites in the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN) 6666 trial funded by the Avon Foundation and the National Cancer Institute. Women underwent baseline screening mammography and ultrasound with follow-up exams at 12 and 24 months and then a single, contrast-enhanced MRI at 24 months.

Sixteen women were diagnosed with breast cancer. Twelve of the cancers were invasive, and four were ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Over the course of the study, 50 to 56 percent of cancers were shown on mammography. Adding ultrasound allowed detection of 70 to 94 percent of cancers. Adding MRI allowed for detection of additional cancers at their earliest stage.

The study also found that supplemental screening with ultrasound or MRI significantly increased the risk of false-positive findings, leading to unnecessary biopsies in some women.

"It is important that women are advised of the increased potential of undergoing an unnecessary biopsy as a result of screening with ultrasound or MRI," Dr. Berg said, "but we hope this study motivates women and their doctors to learn more about their risk factors and to consider supplemental screening in addition to mammography where indicated."
-end-
Coauthors are Zheng Zhang, Ph.D., Jean B. Cormack, Ph.D., Roberta A. Jong, M.D., Richard G. Barr, M.D., Ph.D., Daniel E. Lehrer, M.D., and other ACRIN 6666 investigators.

Note: Copies of RSNA 2009 news releases and electronic images will be available online at RSNA.org/press09 beginning Monday, Nov. 30.

RSNA is an association of more than 44,000 radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists and related scientists committed to excellence in patient care through education and research. The Society is based in Oak Brook, Ill. (RSNA.org)

Editor's note: The data in these releases may differ from those in the printed abstract and those actually presented at the meeting, as researchers continue to update their data right up until the meeting. To ensure you are using the most up-to-date information, please call the RSNA Newsroom at 1-312-949-3233.

For patient-friendly information on x-rays, visit RadiologyInfo.org.

Radiological Society of North America

Related Breast Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

Oncotarget: IGF2 expression in breast cancer tumors and in breast cancer cells
The Oncotarget authors propose that methylation of DVDMR represents a novel epigenetic biomarker that determines the levels of IGF2 protein expression in breast cancer.

Breast cancer: AI predicts which pre-malignant breast lesions will progress to advanced cancer
New research at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, could help better determine which patients diagnosed with the pre-malignant breast cancer commonly as stage 0 are likely to progress to invasive breast cancer and therefore might benefit from additional therapy over and above surgery alone.

Partial breast irradiation effective treatment option for low-risk breast cancer
Partial breast irradiation produces similar long-term survival rates and risk for recurrence compared with whole breast irradiation for many women with low-risk, early stage breast cancer, according to new clinical data from a national clinical trial involving researchers from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G.

Breast screening linked to 60 per cent lower risk of breast cancer death in first 10 years
Women who take part in breast screening have a significantly greater benefit from treatments than those who are not screened, according to a study of more than 50,000 women.

More clues revealed in link between normal breast changes and invasive breast cancer
A research team, led by investigators from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, details how a natural and dramatic process -- changes in mammary glands to accommodate breastfeeding -- uses a molecular process believed to contribute to survival of pre-malignant breast cells.

Breast tissue tumor suppressor PTEN: A potential Achilles heel for breast cancer cells
A highly collaborative team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and Ohio State University report in Nature Communications that they have identified a novel pathway for connective tissue PTEN in breast cancer cell response to radiotherapy.

Computers equal radiologists in assessing breast density and associated breast cancer risk
Automated breast-density evaluation was just as accurate in predicting women's risk of breast cancer, found and not found by mammography, as subjective evaluation done by radiologists, in a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco and Mayo Clinic.

Blood test can effectively rule out breast cancer, regardless of breast density
A new study published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that Videssa® Breast, a multi-protein biomarker blood test for breast cancer, is unaffected by breast density and can reliably rule out breast cancer in women with both dense and non-dense breast tissue.

Study shows influence of surgeons on likelihood of removal of healthy breast after breast cancer dia
Attending surgeons can have a strong influence on whether a patient undergoes contralateral prophylactic mastectomy after a diagnosis of breast cancer, according to a study published by JAMA Surgery.

Young breast cancer patients undergoing breast conserving surgery see improved prognosis
A new analysis indicates that breast cancer prognoses have improved over time in young women treated with breast conserving surgery.

Read More: Breast Cancer News and Breast Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.