Women with an increased risk of breast cancer may benefit from combined mammography and MRI, according to a study published in Radiology.

Janie Lee, MD, a radiologist from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues conducted the study involving a hypothetical group of 25-year old women with BRCA1 mutations. According to background information provided in the paper, women with certain mutations in the BRACA1 gene have an increased lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.

Using a statistical model to estimate the number of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) that a high-risk woman would gain by screening, along with lifetime costs, Dr Lee and her team designed the study to compare the cost-effectiveness and benefits of combined mammography and breast MRI.

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The results of the study revealed that women undergoing annual combined screening with both mammography and MRI gained 49.62 QALYs at a cost of $100,973 compared to annual MRI screening alone, which provided 49.5 QALYs for $108,641, and annual mammography alone, which provided 44.46 QALYs for a cost of $100,336.

“Annual combined screening was best at detecting early-stage cancers and provided the greatest relative mortality reduction,” the authors wrote. “Combined screening became more cost-effective as breast cancer risk increased, and less cost-effective as risk decreased.” Researchers also reported that MRI screening was associated with an increase in false-positive results and annual mammography resulted in 37 false-positive screening examinations for every breast cancer death averted.

“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,” said Dr. Lee.