Why the opposite breast should be evaluated with MRI?

Breast cancer is a worldwide problem with which causes 502,000 deaths per year worldwide. In the United States breast cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in women. Every year more than 40,000 women in the United States die of breast cancer. It is estimated the a woman living in the United States have one in eight chance of developing breast cancer and one in thirty three chance of dying from the disease.

Incidence of breast cancer shows a dramatically increasing trend since 1970s and this increased incidence is thought to be related to the changes in life style. Compared to 1970s more women are now delaying their first pregnancy and have relatively smaller families. These factors have an effect on the level of hormonal exposure during life time and this is considered to be a major factor in the increasing breast cancer incidence in the western world.

With breast cancer being so much of a prevalent disease everything should be done to prevent the occurrence of the breast cancer and to detect the breast cancer early once it develops.

Mammogram is a technique that is very commonly used to screen women for early detection of breast cancer. Mammogram helps to detect breast cancer at a very early stage when it is more likely to be cured by surgery with or without chemotherapy and radiation therapy. MRI is a better technique to detect breast cancer early and it is proven to be more sensitive and effective in detecting breast cancer early. However this technique is not very widely available and is much more expensive compared to mammogram. Because of this reason MRI is not routinely recommended for the purpose of screening for breast cancer. However MRI is widely used in cases where the women in question are high risk for the development of breast cancer or when the mammogram result is inconclusive.

A recent study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine has shown that women who are diagnosed with breast cancer on one breast have high risk of having breast cancer on the other breast at the time of diagnosis. This study showed that more than 3% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer had another cancer in the other breast. These were not detected by mammograms and if mammogram alone was used these 3% of women would not have found out that they have cancer in the other breast. Because of this finding it would be best if every woman with diagnosis of a breast cancer try to obtain an MRI of the opposite breast to evaluate for small breast cancer that may be present in the opposite breast. Mammogram is not enough in this setting.