Area women in high risk groups for breast cancer now have access to breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) through the Conway Regional Women’s Center.
Conway Regional is the only Central Arkansas medical center outside of Little Rock to have breast MRI capability. “Breast MRI has been found to be highly sensitive and very beneficial in very specific groups of women who have a high lifetime risk of developing breast carcinoma,” said Christie Phelan, MD, a radiologist and breast imaging specialist at Conway Regional.
The recent addition of a Breast MRI Coil/Biopsy System is enabling the Conway Regional staff to perform the more revealing MRI diagnostic imaging. MRI is a noninvasive imaging technique that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to look at the inside of a patient’s body.
Recent publicity surrounding the use of MRI to detect the breast cancer of actress Christina Applegate has more women thinking about the use of MRI as a diagnostic tool for breast cancer. Ms. Applegate announced in August that she had a double mastectomy after learning she was in the early stages of breast cancer.
However, breast MRI is not for everyone. The American Cancer Society recommends breast MRI for women in high lifetime risk groups for breast cancer. Conway Regional will provide free risk assessments to women who schedule mammograms to identify those who are at increased risk.
Some insurance companies cover breast MRI for women within the high risk category based on the American Cancer Society recommendations. These women should check with their medical insurance to ensure coverage. The procedure is more expensive than traditional image studies.
At high risk
The high risk group has at least a 20 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and includes women with a mother, sister or daughter who test positive for the rare BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. The gene mutations are believed to account for about 5 percent of breast cancers.
Diagnostic information derived from breast MRI may lead to changes in the treatment of patients diagnosed with breast cancer.
A yearly screening mammogram after age 40 with follow-up diagnostic mammograms when medically needed continues to be the preferred method of detecting breast cancer for most women, said Dr. Phelan. To schedule a mammogram at Conway Regional, call (501)450-2244. For additional information about breast MRI, call (501)513-5117.
Breast MRI screening guidelines
Tested positive for the BRCA gene mutation
Mother, sister or daughter has tested positive for the BRCA mutation.
Lifetime risk of 20 percent or greater as determined by the risk assessment models (largely dependent on family history)
Radiation to chest between the ages of 10 and 30 years
Rare syndromes such as Li-Faumeni, Cowden and Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba
Source: the American Cancer Society
According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer and is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.
It is estimated that more than 182,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be detected this year.
In 2007, 11,334 screening and diagnostic mammograms were performed in the Conway Regional Women’s Center. Mammograms at Conway Regional are all-digital.