That’s a question that many people newly-diagnosed with breast cancer might be asking their surgeon. Currently, there isn’t definitive data to show whether having a breast MRI before surgery changes a patient’s outcome, so it isn’t easy for your surgeon to give you a definite yes or no to that question.
The debate going on isn’t about whether MRI finds more cancer, but instead, whether it improves diagnostic accuracy and therefore outcomes (such as reducing the number of surgeries or cancer recurrances, and whether survival rates improve).
A study done at Yale University and presented at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual conference in 2011 showed that re-operation rates were dramatically reduced when breast MRI was used. But that is just one study, and there are others out there that show no difference.
So, why do we do breast MRI? At Canada Diagnostic, we offer breast MRI as a way for patients and their surgeons to get the clearest picture possible about the size, shape and location of their cancer. A small percentage of women will have a tiny cancer in their other breast that wasn’t seen on mammography or ultrasound, and a number may have a tumour that is actually larger or more extensive than what was seen on their diagnostic imaging. This information is helpful when planning surgery (lumpectomy and breast-conserving surgery) and can help reduce the need for a follow-up surgery. For some patients, the peace of mind that comes from knowing the “full picture” is important.
The role of breast MRI in the management of breast cancer is probably going to start changing in the coming years. As we learn more and more about the biology of the different types of breast cancer, researchers may begin to develop imaging sequences based on the particular type of tumour the patient has.
If you would like to learn more about breast MRI and whether it might be right for you, call us today at 604-709-8522 or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And don’t forget to have your annual mammogram if you are a woman over 40 – its still the best first-line tool we have for finding cancer early.