(HealthDay News) — Initial results indicate that annual magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and digital mammography can form an effective screening program for women at high risk of breast cancer, according to research published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Anna M. Chiarelli, PhD, from Cancer Care Ontario in Toronto, and colleagues compared performance measures after assessment with screening results for 2,207 women with initial screening examinations from the Ontario Breast Screening Program. 

In July 2011, the program was expanded to screen women aged 30 to 69 years at high breast cancer risk with annual MRI and digital mammography.

Continue Reading

RELATED: Breast Cancer Resource Center

The researchers found that the recall rate was significantly higher among women who had abnormal MRI alone versus mammogram alone (15.1% vs. 6.4%). None of the 35 breast cancers detected (16.3 per 1,000) were identified by mammogram alone, while 65.7% were detected by MRI alone. 

Seventy-one percent were detected among women who were known gene mutation carriers. Detection based on mammogram and MRI was associated with highest positive predictive value (12.4%).

“Screening with annual MRI combined with mammography has the potential to be effectively implemented into an organized breast screening program for women at high risk for breast cancer,” the researchers wrote.

RELATED: Do Mammograms Save Lives?

In an accompanying editorial, Wendie A. Berg, MD, PhD, FACR, from the Magee Women’s Hospital of UPMC, noted that additional information is necessary.

“It will be important to know the performance at incidence screening of MRI, the molecular subtypes and node status of cancers only detected by MRI, the interval cancer rates, and the rates of late-stage disease in the [Ontario Breast Screening Program] among subsets of high-risk and average-risk women to understand the efficacy of selective addition of screening MR,” Berg wrote.

“In the interim, women should be informed of the risks of additional testing and biopsy that may not show cancer as a result of supplemental screening MRI.”


  1. Chiarelli AM, Prummel MV, Muradali D et al. Effectiveness of Screening With Annual Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Mammography: Results of the Initial Screen From the Ontario High Risk Breast Screening Program. J Clin Oncol. 2014;doi:10.1200/JCO.2013.52.8331.
  2. Berg WA. How Well Does Supplemental Screening Magnetic Resonance Imaging Work in High-Risk Women?. J Clin Oncol. 2014;doi:10.1200/JCO.2014.56.2975.