In 2012, 39 million women in the US had mammograms. However, breast MRIs are recommended as a way to screen for breast cancer in women at high risk for the disease in conjunction with yearly mammograms.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that the percentage of women undergoing breast MRI has increased in recent years, but often, the women who could benefit the most from the procedure aren't the ones getting it.
This study reviewed about 9,000 breast MRIs done from 2005-2009 and found that the rated tripled during that time period. However, while the number of MRIs has increased, the selection of women getting those MRIs is not ideal since less than 5% of women who were high risk received a screening MRI.
Others studies show that some of the most common reasons that high risk women don't get an MRI are claustrophobia, time constraints, financial concerns, a physician who didn't make the referral, and, in some cases, lack of access to an MRI if the individual lives in rural area.
According to the American Cancer Society, women who should receive a breast MRI for cancer screening are those with:
• A lifetime risk of breast cancer >20-25%--based on risk assessment tools
• BRCA gene mutation
• A first degree rel with BRCA (if the woman has had genetic testing)
• History of chest radiation between the ages of 10-30
If MRI is used, it should be in addition to, not instead of, a screening mammogram. In addition, for most women at high risk, the American Cancer Society suggest beginning screening with MRI and mammograms at age 30 years.