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Researchers Question Use Of MRIs For Breast Cancer Surgery

UT Health Science Center

Researchers from around the world gathered in San Antonio this week for the 2012 Breast Cancer Symposium.

One of the hot topics under discussion this year is the use of MRIs before surgery to decide who might be a candidate for a partial mastectomy versus a total mastectomy.

Dr. Ismail Jatoi of the UT Health Science Center said that historically, those decisions have been based on mammograms, ultra-sound and clinical examination.

"In other words, if you’ve got a localized cancer, we generally would recommend partial mastectomy" said Jatoi. "That’s the preferred method for treating early breast cancer worldwide, in most cases."

Jatoi said the more sensitive MRI, which can find lesions away from the main cancer, could prompt the surgeon to recommend a full mastectomy. 

"And one of the things of course, is that with partial mastectomy, there’s a re-operation rate. In other words, when you do the survey, you often find tumors at the margins, at the edge of the specimen and have to go back and do another operation. And there have been trials that looked at mammography versus mammography plus MRI and found that MRI doesn’t change the re-operation rate."

Jatoi said research now indicates that even though MRIs can find more lesions at the margins, they can be treated with chemotherapy and radiation, meaning MRIs may not be changing outcomes that much.

This is the breast cancer symposium’s 35th year in San Antonio.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.