How MRIs Could Improve Breast Cancer Screenings
By Devin Partida, Editor-in-Chief, ReHack.com
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans can detect early signs of breast cancer, leading to more timely treatment. However, a false-positive result based on MRI scans can cause unnecessary tests and treatments like biopsies and potentially surgery.
A new development from the Medical University of Vienna could change the diagnostic process and reduce false-positive results from MRIs. The institution established a threshold value for noninvasive imaging using biomarkers, or indicators of severity.
The Austrian university can soon begin supplying this new MRI technology to hospitals and health care facilities throughout the country. On a larger scale, the rest of the world could use this new threshold value to more accurately diagnose and subsequently treat breast cancer.
A Growing Need for Improvements
MRIs help with the early diagnosis of breast cancer. This technology is critical for people who have symptoms or are undergoing an annual mammogram. However, it becomes less efficient for those who receive misleading results that require a biopsy.
The developments from Medical University of Vienna have been years in the making, stemming from the inaccuracies that can arise from incorrect breast cancer diagnostics. According to one study, supplemental MRI screening led to almost 80 false-positives out of 1,000 screenings. Those 80 cases could then lead to unnecessary emotional and physical stress, as well as additional medical costs.
On top of patient stress, incorrect MRI tests can also waste a hospital’s energy and resources. Since MRIs require such complex magnetic imaging tools, health care facilities shouldn’t have to worry about getting an incorrect diagnosis.
Still, MRIs are essential for the early detection of breast cancer, which is why Medical University of Vienna researchers have been working so diligently to find a way to reduce false-positives. If the scan shows signs of breast cancer, patients may need a biopsy for further testing. Ultimately, this research can cut down on biopsies that come from said false-positives.
The New Changes for MRIs
On March 1, 2021, the Medical University of Vienna announced its latest breast cancer diagnostics. The report details the noninvasive process for the traditional type of MRI screening — diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI).
Since MRIs use a magnetic field to measure water molecule distribution in the body, they can also visualize other structures like blood vessels. For instance, a contrast-based MRI shows blood circulation in the body’s tissue. Water molecules will move about faster in healthy tissue than they would in a cancerous tumor.
The DWI scan shows the water molecules’ activity in a set part of the body, which ultimately allows doctors to label any lesions more accurately. The main obstacle here is that some molecules will move in a way that mimics unhealthy tissue but is not cancerous. However, Medical University of Vienna researchers have established a set threshold that accurately categorizes breast cancer based on this molecular movement.
Through a measure by the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) MRI technique, experts at the university state that if the threshold value is equal to or above 1.5+10-3 mm2/s, doctors will not need to take a biopsy. They know the MRI is not giving a false-positive result and do not need to proceed with unnecessary testing.
The researchers state this advancement could reduce post-MRI biopsy testing by 30% since the scan can work with this threshold. The DWI procedure only takes roughly three minutes to complete, and health care workers can use it in any location since it’s not specific to any one department.
The Bigger Implications
Since this development is accurate and fast, Austria could begin adopting it on a nationwide scale. Moreover, the rest of the world can use this information to drastically improve MRI diagnostics for breast cancer and ultimately reduce biopsies and patient stress.
Researchers hope to improve this new standard even further in the future.