High-Risk Women Get Breast MRI – but Room Remains for Improvement

A Group Health Research Institute large national study finds the rate of women receiving breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) nearly tripled from 2005 to 2009, from four to 11 exams per 1,000 women. The study, which appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine, is the first large-scale report of how women are using breast MRI in national community practice.

The same issue of JAMA includes a report of breast MRI use in the northeast and an editorial addressing the issue accompanies the two studies. Both papers report similar findings: Breast MRI is now being used for screening more often than for diagnosis, and its use for screening is more common in average-risk women than in higher-risk women—but that pattern is improving. Breast MRI is recommended in addition to X-ray mammography to screen women at high risk for developing breast cancer during their lifetime.