The full content of Annals is available to subscribers

Subscribe/Learn More  >
Reviews |

Systematic Review: Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging to Screen Women at High Risk for Breast Cancer

Ellen Warner, MD, MSc; Hans Messersmith, MPH; Petrina Causer, MD; Andrea Eisen, MD; Rene Shumak, MD; and Donald Plewes, PhD
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

From Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, Odette Cancer Center, and Cancer Care Ontario. Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Acknowledgment: The authors thank Dr. Steve Hanna of McMaster University for his assistance with the meta-analysis.

Grant Support: The Program in Evidence-based Care is a provincial initiative of Cancer Care Ontario supported by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care through Cancer Care Ontario.

Potential Financial Conflicts of Interest:Stock ownership or options (other than mutual funds): D. Plewes (GE Healthcare, Sentinelle Medical).

Requests for Single Reprints: Hans Messersmith, MPH, Program in Evidence-Based Care, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, DTC, 3rd Floor, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4L8; e-mail, messers@mcmaster.ca.

Current Author Addresses: Drs. Warner, Causer, and Plewes: Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, 2075 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4N 3M5.

Mr. Messersmith: Program in Evidence-Based Care, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, DTC, 3rd Floor, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4L8.

Dr. Eisen: Odette Cancer Center, 2075 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4N 3M5.

Dr. Shumak: Cancer Center Ontario, 505 University Avenue, 18th Floor, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 1X3.

Ann Intern Med. 2008;148(9):671-679. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-148-9-200805060-00007
Text Size: A A A

Background: A sensitive and acceptable screening regimen for women at high risk for breast cancer is essential. Contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast is highly sensitive for diagnosis of breast cancer but has variable specificity.

Purpose: To summarize the sensitivity, specificity, likelihood ratios, and posttest probability associated with adding MRI to annual mammography screening of women at very high risk for breast cancer.

Data Sources: English-language literature search of the MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases from January 1995 to September 2007, supplemented by hand searches of pertinent articles.

Study Selection: Prospective studies published after 1994 in which MRI and mammography (with or without additional tests) were used to screen women at very high risk for breast cancer.

Data Extraction: Methods and potential biases of studies were assessed by 2 reviewers, and data were extracted and entered into 2 × 2 tables that compared American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BI-RADS) scores of MRI plus mammography, mammography alone, or MRI alone with results of breast tissue biopsies.

Data Synthesis: Eleven relevant, prospective, nonrandomized studies that ranged from small single-center studies with only 1 round of patient screening to large multicenter studies with repeated rounds of annual screening were identified. Characteristics of women that varied across study samples included age range, history of breast cancer, and BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation status. Studies used dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI with axial or coronal plane images (European studies) or sagittal images (North American studies) that were usually interpreted without knowledge of mammography results. The summary negative likelihood ratio and the probability of a BI-RADS–suspicious lesion (given negative test findings and assuming a 2% pretest probability of disease) were 0.70 (95% CI, 0.59 to 0.82) and 1.4% (CI, 1.2% to 1.6%) for mammography alone and 0.14 (CI, 0.05 to 0.42) and 0.3% (CI, 0.1% to 0.8%) for the combination of MRI plus mammography, using a BI-RADS score of 4 or higher as the definition of positive.

Limitations: Differences in patient population, center experience, and criteria for positive screening results led to between-study heterogeneity. Data on patients with nonfamilial high risk were limited, and no data were available on recurrence or survival.

Conclusion: Screening with both MRI and mammography might rule out cancerous lesions better than mammography alone in women who are known or likely to have an inherited predisposition to breast cancer.


Grahic Jump Location
Sensitivity versus specificity of studies of MRI and mammography.

In the BI-RADS system, 0 = indeterminate; 1 = negative; 2 = benign finding; 3 = short follow-up interval required; 4 = suspicious abnormality, biopsy should be considered; and 5 = highly suspicious for malignancy. BI-RADS = American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System; MRI = magnetic resonance imaging.

Grahic Jump Location




CME Activities are only available to ACP members and Individual Annals subscribers. If you are a member or a subscriber please sign in. Otherwise please become a member or subscribe to Annals.
Citing articles are presented as examples only. In non-demo SCM6 implementation, integration with CrossRef’s "Cited By" API will populate this tab (http://www.crossref.org/citedby.html).


Submit a Comment/Letter
Submit a Comment/Letter

Summary for Patients

Clinical Slide Sets

Terms of Use

The In the Clinic® slide sets are owned and copyrighted by the American College of Physicians (ACP). All text, graphics, trademarks, and other intellectual property incorporated into the slide sets remain the sole and exclusive property of the ACP. The slide sets may be used only by the person who downloads or purchases them and only for the purpose of presenting them during not-for-profit educational activities. Users may incorporate the entire slide set or selected individual slides into their own teaching presentations but may not alter the content of the slides in any way or remove the ACP copyright notice. Users may make print copies for use as hand-outs for the audience the user is personally addressing but may not otherwise reproduce or distribute the slides by any means or media, including but not limited to sending them as e-mail attachments, posting them on Internet or Intranet sites, publishing them in meeting proceedings, or making them available for sale or distribution in any unauthorized form, without the express written permission of the ACP. Unauthorized use of the In the Clinic slide sets will constitute copyright infringement.


Buy Now for $32.00

to gain full access to the content and tools.

Want to Subscribe?

Learn more about subscription options

Related Articles
Related Point of Care
Topic Collections
PubMed Articles
Forgot your password?
Enter your username and email address. We'll send you a reminder to the email address on record.