The NHSBSP responds to a new study comparing MRI with mammography

Statement published 10th August, 2007

A Lancet study published 10 August 2007 found MRI scans are far better at detecting aggressive breast cancers at an early stage than standard mammograms. It claims that that X-ray based screening detects only 56 per cent of the early signs of a form of the disease.

But the University of Bonn team found MRI, more typically used for brain scans, picked up 92 per cent of lesions.

The study, of more than 7,300 women, focused on a very early-stage form of breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which affects the milk ducts in the breast.

However, MRI scans are rarely used in breast clinics, and then usually only as a back-up to conventional scans.

The researchers are calling for greater use to be made of MRI in the detection of breast cancer.

NHS Cancer Screening Programmes Director, Julietta Patnick, said:

"The NHS Cancer Screening Programmes welcomes new research into screening for breast cancer. Detection of DCIS presents difficult issues for both women and their doctors as there are many uncertainties involved in the prognosis and management of the disease. The Programme uses mammography to screen all women in the UK aged 50 or more for breast cancer. The results in The Lancet are not representative of the screening population, and so have to be interpreted with care."

For further information, please contact the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes' press office on 020 7400 4499 or e-mail .