The study summarises an extensive review of published, peer-reviewed studies. Among the key recommendations are:
MRI is not a substitute for screening or diagnostic mammography and, when indicated, diagnostic breast ultrasound. MRI supplements the use of these standard imaging tools in appropriately selected clinical situations.
For women with diagnosed breast cancer, MRI provides enhanced detection in both the breast known to have cancer and the opposite, or "contralateral," breast.
Surgical decisions should not be based solely on MRI findings because not all suspicious lesions on MRI are cancer. Suspicious lesions should be biopsied before a surgery plan is devised in order to avoid surgical overtreatment.
In the rare instances where cancer is found in the lymph nodes but not the breast, an MRI can find the location of cancer in the breast in nearly 60 percent of women.
"Exciting research over the past decade makes it clear that breast MRI finds cancers that are missed by mammography and ultrasound," said Connie Lehman, corresponding author of the study. "The next phase of research is to understand more completely the impact of this improved cancer detection on treatment outcomes."
"Health care policy decisions regarding the use of important but expensive technology must be based upon evidence that these tools are providing measurable benefit to patients," Benjamin Anderson, co-author of the study, said. "This study provides that evidence for breast MRI."
Breast MRI is a relatively new clinical tool for detecting breast cancer and techniques for using the sensitive equipment vary by site. Lehman and colleagues urge that clear standards for technical parameters be established, as well as performance measures at clinical sites that offer MRI.