(ABC4 UTAH) In the United States, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. One of the ways doctors have increased survival rates is with early detection using annual screening mammography.
Now, with Breast Cancer Awareness Month kicking off in October, doctors at Intermountain Healthcare are unveiling a new tool for early detection, called abbreviated MRI.
Using a normal magnetic resonance imaging machine already in hospitals, doctors can do a scan of just the breasts which only takes about ten minutes, and costs significantly less than conventional MRI.
Scans from an MRI are more sensitive and can detect certain cancers earlier than a normal mammogram. Studies have shown the sensitivity of a mammogram is about 70-85 percent while an MRI is 95-98 percent. That sensitivity is especially important for women with dense breast tissue because it can be harder for a mammogram to pick up tumors early because of the extra tissue.
Beginning in October, the scans will be available to women considered to be at higher risk for breast cancer, which is determined by several factors including family history and density of breast tissue.
Using data points from previous scans and a questionnaire, doctors can help determine a patient’s risk level for developing breast cancer. Those with a score at or above 20 percent are considered high risk and eligible for the abbreviated MRI.
An important step in improving access to this new scan is that SelectHealth Insurance will cover the MRI for high-risk patients. Since time in the scanner is shorter, the cost is also lower and will only run around $400 for those paying out of pocket. That’s considerably lower than a traditional MRI.
Studies have shown there are still some cancers which are better detected on mammograms, so abbreviated MRI won’t replace a woman’s annual screenings. Doctors say those at higher risk should receive both scans annually as a preventative measure.
MRIs for breast cancer detection in high-risk patients has been around for around 20 years. Abbreviated MRI is relatively new and doctors hope with the faster scan and lower cost it could become more widely used in the future.
To schedule a screening, call 801-507-7840, or visit their website.