By staff writers

August 22, 2013 -- Heavy use of MRI may be leading to unnecessary mastectomies in older women with breast cancer, according to a study published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

Using data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Medicare database, researchers from Yale University tracked the use of breast MRI and surgical care for 72,461 female Medicare beneficiaries ages 67 to 94 who were diagnosed with breast cancer during 2000 to 2009 (Breast Cancer Res Treat, August 14, 2013).

Lead author Dr. Brigid Killelea and colleagues found that the use of preoperative breast MRI increased dramatically over the study period, from 1% in 2000 to 2001 to 25% in 2008 to 2009. The team also found that women who received MRI were more likely to have aggressive surgical treatment. In women who received mastectomy, 12.5% of those who had MRI received bilateral mastectomy, while only 4.1% of those who did not have MRI had bilateral mastectomy.

The study also found that women who had MRI were more likely to have surgery to remove both breasts when cancer was only found in one breast (contralateral prophylactic mastectomy). Among women who underwent mastectomy, 6.9% of women who had MRI had contralateral prophylactic mastectomy, compared with 1.8% of women who did not have MRI.

"There has been no randomized, controlled clinical trial demonstrating improved outcomes for women who undergo preoperative breast MRI at any age," Killelea said in a statement released by Yale's School of Medicine.

Copyright © 2013

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