More than 400 asymptomatic women with dense breasts underwent abbreviated magnetic resonance imaging (also called “rapid MRI” or AB-MR) at Penn Medicine between 2016 and 2019. In a retrospective study of these patients, all of whom had 3 -D negative mammogram in the previous 11 months, researchers at Perelman School of Medicine found that an abbreviated MRI detected approximately 27 cancers per 1,000 women screened. By comparison, 3D mammography detects about four to five cancers in 1,000 screened women, on average. The conclusions were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“Mammography is the best tool we have for detecting breast cancer, but it’s not perfect. In women with fatty tissue, cancer can be detected very easily. But in women with very dense breasts, the sensitivity can go down to 30% ”, explains Susan weinstein, associate professor of radiology at Penn. “We need to start thinking about how to better screen women with dense breasts, and AB-MR is an effective and feasible option.”

Once a patient is informed of her breast density, the most common additional screening test is ultrasound, which is readily available at most breast centers, according to Weinstein. However, ultrasound has limitations, and several studies have shown a significantly higher cancer detection rate with contrast-enhanced MRI compared to ultrasound screening.

The challenge is that breast MRI is a limited and expensive resource. It may require up to 16 sets of imaging, which may take up to 40 minutes. Shortened MRI, on the other hand, is a newer, shorter version of screening. It only requires three sequences on average, making it a more accessible option for the 40% of women in the United States with dense breasts.

This story is by Lauren Ingeno. Read more on Penn Medicine News.

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