Study: MRI may cause more harm than good in breast cancer

Using MRI before surgery to assess the extent of early breast cancer has not been shown to improve surgical planning, reduce follow-up surgery, or reduce the risk of local recurrences, according to results of a new study.

The study, published in the August 13 online version of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, also noted that MRI increases the chances of more extensive surgery compared to conservative approaches, with no evidence that it improves surgical care or prognosis.

Led by Nehmat Houssami, Ph.D., of the University of Sydney in Australia and Dr. Daniel Hayes of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor, the researchers reviewed available data on preoperative MRI's detection capability and its effects on treatment.

After reviewing the data, the group concluded that there is evidence that MRI changes surgical management, generally from breast conservation to more radical surgery, but there is no evidence that it improves surgical treatment or outcomes.

"Overall, there is growing evidence that MRI does not improve surgical care, and it could be argued that it has a potentially harmful effect," the authors wrote.

Well-designed randomized and controlled trials are needed to quantify potential benefit and harm, including careful evaluation of how MRI affects quality of life.

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