Like South Florida resident Sue M’s case, 40 percent of breast cancers found through screening are ductal carcinomas in situ (DCIS).
Unfortunately for Sue, her DCIS was missed on a routine mammogram. It was only after she felt a tiny lump 6 weeks later, that her diagnosis was confirmed by biopsy.
What she didn’t know was that for women like herself who have dense breasts, even the latest digital mammograms produce false negatives as much as 25 percent of the time.
Recent studies have concluded that high risk women may be better served by having magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in addition to mammograms to screen for breast cancer. Unlike mammograms which expose the patient to some radiation, MRIs are radiation-free. The patient is injected through an IV with a contrast agent called gadolinium that distinguishes between normal and abnormal areas in the breast.
Newer preliminary data now suggest that a dedicated high resolution breast MRI may be more effective at finding breast cancers missed on mammogram than the lower resolution MRIs found at most Florida facilities.
Luckily, there are currently two centers in Florida – one in Sarasota and one in Panama City that have these new machines.
Known as the Aurora 1.5T Dedicated Breast MRI, this is the only Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared MRI system specifically designed for breast imaging unlike whole-body MRI systems that require after-market modifications.
The Aurora MRI creates 3D, high resolution, fat-suppressed images that can detect low-grade DCIS often missed with the low resolution MRIs.
A white paper recently authored by Dr. Steven E. Harms, medical director of Aurora Imaging Technology, Inc. reported that in a small series of patients, 19 out of 20 (95 percent) pathology proven DCIS cases were detected, nearly half of which were intermediate or low-grade.
The ability to reliably find all grades of DCIS with this higher resolution MRI represents a significant benefit to women who fall into the high risk category for breast cancer as well as for those who have already been diagnosed with DCIS and need to follow-up with yearly studies. The more sensitive and specific the results from a machine like the Aurora MRI, the less unnecessary biopsies will be required.
Dr. Harms plans to publish the results from 1000 patients some time this December. If this new technology turns out to be as positive as early results suggest, the hope is that more centers will adopt it. In the meantime, high risk women should talk with their physicians about considering this option.
For further information about the Aurora MRI and Florida locations