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Breast cancer MRI scan warning

The use of MRI scans in women suffering from early stage breast cancer may be inadvisable, research has suggested.

One expert has claimed that the scans could lead to unnecessary surgery being performed on patients who are not suffering from an advanced form of the disease.

A study of breast cancer patients being considered for non-surgical treatment found a 6% increase in mastectomies in those who had been given magnetic resonance mammography.

Malcolm Kell, Consultant Surgeon and Senior Lecturer at University College Dublin, said the higher surgery rates could be because such examinations are so sophisticated they pick up harmless recurrence or extension of tumours whose removal will not alter the patient's prognosis.

But he said that while the scans were extremely useful in monitoring advanced breast cancer and assessing the response in the breast following chemotherapy, the use of this technology in early stage breast cancer may do more harm than good.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Dr Kell said: "Magnetic resonance mammography identifies occult disease in the breast that may not be visible on other imaging modalities and this may lead to inappropriate treatment decisions."

He concluded: "There is no compelling evidence that this technique should be routinely used in newly diagnosed breast cancer."

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British Medical Journal