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Mammogram Plus MRI Seems Cost-Effective in High-Risk Women

Having both procedures annually may improve life expectancy, study finds

TUESDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Annual screening with both mammography and MRI appears to be a cost-effective way to improve life expectancy in women at high risk for breast cancer, U.S. researchers say.

In the new study, Dr. Janie Lee, a radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues used statistical modeling to compare the costs and benefits of mammography alone, MRI alone, and mammography and MRI combined in a hypothetical group of 25-year-old women with BRCA1 mutations, which significantly increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

Annual MRI screening alone provided 49.50 quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) at a cost of $108,641, while annual mammography alone provided 44.46 QALYs at a cost of $100,336. Annual combined MRI and mammography screening provided 49.62 QALYs at a cost of $110,973, according to the report published in the March issue of the journal Radiology.

The researchers calculated that adding annual MRI to annual mammography screening cost $69,125 for each QALY gained. Commonly cited thresholds for cost-effective interventions range from $50,000 to $100,000 per QALY, Lee noted in a news release from the Radiological Society of North America.

The study also found that annual combined screening was best at detecting early-stage breast cancers and at reducing breast cancer deaths. The cost-effectiveness of combined screening improved as breast cancer risk increased.

"For women at the highest risk of breast cancer, using both breast MRI and mammography together for screening will likely reduce their chances of dying from breast cancer and help them live longer, healthier lives," Lee said in the news release.

The study findings support current American Cancer Society screening recommendations.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer screening.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, Feb. 23, 2010

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