Experts: At Risk Women Should Get MRI for Breast Cancer

By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter
By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter

Knoxville (WVLT) - For the first time in nearly 10 years, the American Cancer Society is changing its breast cancer guidelines.

The ACS now says those with an unusually high risk of developing breast cancer should get annual MRIs, as well as mammograms.

The new guidelines suggest healthy women at risk of getting breast cancer should also get MRI scans.

That could affect the way as many as 1.4 million women get screened.

"The American Cancer Society for the first time since 1997 has changed their screening guidelines and added more information to suggest that women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer should have breast MRIs,"

MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, makes more detailed images with a magnet and radio waves, but without radiation.

They're better at showing increased or abnormal blood flow in the breast, a sign of early cancer not visible on a mammogram.

They're also better than mammograms at detecting cancer in women with dense, non-fatty breasts.

Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center Doctor Kamilia Kozlowski and her team have been performing breast MRIs since 2002. "Studies have shown that breast MRIs can find breast cancers a lot smaller, and if we're finding them smaller, we're finding them earlier."

The KCBC uses one of only 30 MRI machines in the country specifically designed for breast imaging.

A woman lies on her stomach, and enters feet first.

The breast MRI scan provides a higher resolution and clarity than full body MRI machines.

"And if we want to find small breast cancers, you have to take the smallest, thinnest slice possible," says Dr. Kozlowski.

However, breast MRI screening is not being recommended for most women, primarily because of the cost.

While a mammogram costs about $100, an MRI can cost $2,000, or more.

Many, but not all, insurers cover MRI screenings.

These new ACS guidelines could prove influential to those insurers.

This is not to suggest MRIs should replace mammograms, which spot calcium deposits better than MRIs do.

The message is some women should be getting both.

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