An MRI every six months could be far more effective in detecting breast cancer in younger women with a high-risk genetic profile than an annual mammogram, according to researchers.
The findings showed that undergoing a dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (DCE-MRI) every six months helped "downstage" aggressive breast cancer by finding small early lesions in women with high-risk mutations -- that are crucial to improving outcomes.
The DCE-MRI scans detected node-negative, invasive tumours less than one centimeter and performed especially well in young women with BRCA1 mutation -- which increases the risk for aggressive subtypes of breast cancer.
"Mammograms remain important for most women. But for women at high risk who are getting a DCE-MRI every six months, annual mammograms could probably be eliminated," said Olufunmilayo Olopade, Professor at the University of Chicago.
"For this group of younger women at significantly elevated risk, especially those with a BRCA1 mutation, we strongly support getting a DCE-MRI every six months," Olopade added, in the paper presented at the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
Between 2004 and December 2016, the researchers enrolled 305 women into a clinical trial with a lifetime breast cancer risk greater than 20 percent, who were scheduled to undergo a clinical breast examination and a DCE-MRI scan every six months, and a digital mammogram every 12 months.
The DCE-MRI curtailed the spread of the cancers to the lymph nodes as well as detected tumors smaller than a centimeter.
"This study demonstrates, for the first time, that aggressive breast cancers can be caught early, without excessive recalls or biopsies," Olopade said.
The researchers also suggested that all women should test for BRCA1 and BRCA2 at about age 30, regardless of personal or family history of cancer. that would detect mutations and help early action at preventing cancer.