Health News

Position During Breast MRIs Might Hinder Accurate Scans

Photo from Wikipedia

A small study has found that the position a woman is in during a pre-surgical breast MRI could have an effect on the MRI scan’s accuracy.

The research, conducted by radiologists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston showed evidence that MRI images taken before a breast cancer surgery could give doctors inaccurate data if the patient was in a facedown position during the scan.

In comparison, patients placed in the supine or face-up position in an MRI before surgery “may provide surgeons with more detailed and accurate information, and could lead to effective tumor removal,” according to lead researcher Dr. Eva Gombos in a press release from the hospital.

A breast MRI is completed before breast cancer patients undergo lumpectomy to conserve breast tissue. The scans help surgeons determine the size, shape and location of a tumor.

Dr. Kristin Byrne, a radiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says, “The real benefit of breast MRI in a patient with breast cancer is preoperative planning, to determine if there is additional cancer in the same breast or in the other breast prior to surgery.” She has reviewed the study’s findings.

Unfortunately, many of these MRI scans are performed facedown. Byrne said the reason behind that is because, “When the patient is on her back, the breasts often droop to the sides at different angles and it can look different each time they are imaged, leading to misinterpretation.”

But the Boston research pointed out that surgery is conducted with the patient in the supine position – the opposite from the usual position for an MRI.

In the study, Gombos and her team looked at 12 breast cancer patients due for lumpectomy. Six of the patients had MRI scans before and after the surgeries. According to the study, the facedown position during the MRI scans produced significant deformity on the scans of the breast and tumor’s position.

Gombos says, “There was a change in size and shape caused by displacement and deformation of the tumor between standard imaging in the prone position and operative supine position.”

Senior author on the study Dr. Mehra Golshan suggested that perhaps conducting the MRI in both prone and supine positions would “help detect a remnant tumor and ensure clear margins to prevent re-operation.” Golshan, Chairperson of Surgical Oncology at the hospital, reported that “among women undergoing breast-conserving surgery, 15 to 40 percent need to have a second operation to remove remnant tumor.”

Too Early To Draw Conclusions

The researchers stressed that their study was a small one, and needs to be expanded on a larger scale to further validate it.

Byrne is of the opinion that there are too many unclear items from the study to draw any definite conclusions. She firmly states, “Breast MRI imaging is performed with the patient face down because it allows consistency in positioning, which is important for follow-up imaging.” Since only six patients were studied and one had to go back, Byrne says it’s surely “not proven that surgical management or outcome were altered in this study.”

She added that only a few US hospitals offer breast MRI scans to help women and doctors in the surgeries. The use of MRIs does have a negative effect, since prolonging the surgical procedure puts a patient at a higher risk for infection, Byrne noted.

Breast Cancer Statistics Improving

Breast cancer statistics for women in the USA show that about 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Around 246,660 new cases of invasive and 61,000 of non-invasive breast cancer expected to be diagnosed this year alone.

For American women, breast cancer death rates are much higher than those for other kinds of cancer, apart from lung cancer. Breast cancer is also the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the US, aside from skin cancer. Studies have proven that African-American women have the highest risks of dying from breast cancer, with the lowest risks among Asian, Hispanic and Native American women.

On a positive note, breast cancer rates have dropped among Americans in 2000, largely due to the decrease in the use of hormone replacement therapy, earlier detection of tumors through screening, increased awareness regarding the disease and more technologically-advanced treatment procedures.

The study was published in the journal Radiology.

Click to comment
To Top

Hi - We Would Love To Keep In Touch

If you liked this article then please consider joing our mailing list to receive the latest news, updates and opportunities from our team.

We don't want an impostor using your email address so please look for an email from us and click the link to confirm your email address.