Combining an MRI scan and a mammogram is the most effective way to detect breast cancer in women with a high risk of the disease, scientists said on Monday. Women who have mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are more likely to develop cancer and at a younger age. Detecting the disease with just a mammogram can be difficult because younger women have denser breasts.
"Our results suggest that MRI screening is more effective than mammography in this high-risk group, and combining the methods is very effective," said professor Martin Leach, of the Institute of Cancer Research in London.
Leach and his colleagues compared the effectiveness of both screening methods on 650 women at high risk of breast cancer, which affects more than 1 million women worldwide each year. They found that MRI was nearly twice as effective as mammograms in finding signs of the disease. Mammograms picked up 40% of tumors in the women, but MRI detected 77%. When the two methods were combined, 94% of tumors were identified. MRI was particularly good at finding tumors in women with a mutation in BRCA1 gene, according to the study published online by The Lancet medical journal.
Inherited genetic mutations account for only a small percentage of breast cancer cases, but women with the defects have about a 60% chance of developing the disease by the age of 70. (Reuters)