When it comes to breast cancer screening, mammograms are the holy grail. In fact, women above the age of 30 are often advised to go in for yearly mammograms to catch the disease early. This, along with monthly self breast examinations to detect possible lumps. But turns out, mammograms aren’t the only way to screen for breast cancer. Scientists believe MRIs can help too.
MRIs can identify biomarkers of breast cancer, according to this study
Researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the US found that multiple differences in biomarkers of breast cancer can be assessed with Positron-emission tomography (PET) or MRI imaging, which could help in the screening, and risk-reduction strategies.
While screening mammography—which uses low-energy X-rays to examine the human breast—has decreased mortality for breast cancer patients by 30%, its sensitivity is limited and is decreased in women with dense breast tissue.
“Such shortcomings warrant further refinements in breast cancer screening modalities, and the identification of imaging biomarkers to guide follow-up care for breast cancer patients,” said Doris Leithner, a research fellow at the Center.
The study included 141 patients with imaging abnormalities on mammography or sonography on a tumour-free breast.
The patients underwent combined PET/MRI of the breast with dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI, diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) and, the radiotracer 18F-FDG PET.
In all patients, several imaging biomarkers were recorded in the tumour-free breast, including background parenchymal enhancement, breast parenchymal uptake, and fibroglandular tissue.
“Based on these results, tracer uptake of normal breast parenchyma in 18F-FDG PET might serve as another important, easily quantifiable imaging biomarker in breast cancer, similar to breast density in mammography and background parenchymal enhancement in MRI,” Leithner explained.
“As hybrid PET/MRI scanners are increasingly being used in clinical practice, they can simultaneously assess and monitor multiple imaging biomarkers — including breast parenchymal uptake — which could consequently contribute to risk-adapted screening, and guide risk-reduction strategies,” he said.