So you continuously worry that your negative mammogram missed cancer because you have dense breasts?
You should know about AB-MR technology. This is an abbreviated breast MRI.
Five Extra Breast Cancers Found
A study by Penn Medicine involving 195 women with dense breasts, who’d had a negative mammogram within the prior 11 months, revealed five cancers detected via the AB-MR.
Breast Cancer Detection Rate Comparison
• Regular mammography: four cancers per 1,000 women.
• 3D (tomosynthesis): five cancers per 1,000 women.
• Abbreviated MRI: 25 cancers per 1,000 women (according to Penn Medicine’s preliminary results).
Whole breast ultrasound is a supplemental screening tool that women with dense breasts are encouraged to undertake.
But the Penn Medicine paper notes that AB-MR may be a better option.
An abbreviated MRI is not the same as a full breast MRI. The American Cancer Society recommends the full breast MRI for women who have a 20-25 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer.
Limitations of the Study
Only the press release version of this study has been located online. The actual paper may include a lot of compelling information that the press release doesn’t provide.
One of the things that stands out about the study is that the participants’ negative mammogram had taken place within the previous 11 months.
Recall that five additional breast cancers were detected with the abbreviated MRI.
“I would want to know the risk factors of these five women,” says Anjali Malik, MD, a board certified diagnostic radiologist with Washington Radiology in Washington, DC, who was not involved with the study. She interprets mammograms, breast MRIs and ultrasounds, and performs biopsies.
Nobody knows if those five additional breast cancers were actually “missed” on the previous mammogram, or if some or all of them developed subsequent to the mammograms over the ensuing 11 months.
Thus, we can’t say with any certainty that these five additional masses were hiding amid dense breast tissue at the time of the mammograms.
Interval cancers (malignancies that develop between screenings) may be the explanation.
Dr. Malik also points out another obvious limitation: a small study sample.
It would be interesting to see what the results might be for 195,000 women rather than just 195.
“That said, abbreviated MR shows promise in at least being part of the toolbelt for women at high lifetime risk for the development of breast cancer,” says Dr. Malik.
“Currently, the ECOG‐ACRIN 1141 Trial, ‘Comparison of Abbreviated Breast MRI and Digital Breast Tomosynthesis in Breast Cancer Screening,’ is ongoing.
“This prospective randomized phase II trial compares an abbreviated breast MRI exam and digital breast tomosynthesis for detecting cancer in women with dense breast parenchyma.”