Study finds MR detects 98 percent of pregnancy-related breast cancers

por Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | September 20, 2017
MRI Rad Oncology Women's Health
More research is
needed to confirm
MR imaging detects 98 percent of pregnancy-related breast cancers, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

This type of breast cancer can be aggressive, and is more common than widely recognized. Research published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment in 2013 found that as many as 12,000 women will be diagnosed with this condition up to five years after their last childbirth.

A team led by Dr. Kelly S. Myers of Johns Hopkins Hospital conducted a retrospective review of medical records from January 1994 to May 2014 and identified 183 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy or one year postpartum.
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However, MR images were only available for 53 of those patients. Of those women, nine were currently pregnant and 44 were in their first year postpartum.

Myers and her team found that MR had a sensitivity rate of 98 percent — 52 out of the 53 patients. In addition, MR changed surgical management for 28 percent of those patients, with seven no longer considered candidates for lumpectomy, four patients requiring larger lumpectomy, two having contralateral disease, and two having unsuspected metastasis.

"In contrast to the previous assumption that breast MRI would be of limited utility in this population, we found that it showed a pathologically proven larger tumor size or greater extent of disease in 23% of patients,” the researchers concluded.

They added that these findings are important because preoperative planning is especially important for patients with pregnancy-associated breast cancer because of its often aggressive nature.

Even though only 53 patients were studied, this is the largest series of breast MR exams performed in the setting of pregnancy-related breast cancer to the team's knowledge. This study greatly expands on the current literature, but further research is still warranted.

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