An article appearing in the April 4, 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, coauthored by Dr. Etta D. Pisano, M.D., Professor of Radiology and Dean of the College of Medicine at MUSC, reported better detection rates for early, node-negative, invasive breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue and at least one other risk factor when annual mammography was supplemented with ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This is the first study to show that the increased detection of early invasive breast cancer seen with ultrasound persists after the initial screen, providing evidence of its usefulness as a supplemental screen to annual mammography.
Although detection rates were highest with MRI, it is expensive and not tolerated by some patients, making ultrasound the better choice in patients with intermediate risk or in high-risk patients who do not tolerate MRI. Both ultrasound and MRI screening are associated with increased false positives, potentially leading to unnecessary biopsies, but the rate of false positives was lower in women with a personal history of breast cancer, and it decreased with regular annual screening.
It is important for every woman to speak with her physician about which screening process is most appropriate given her own medical history and risk profile.