Understanding indications and defining guidelines for breast magnetic resonance imaging

  • Peter K. Schoub


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast is the most sensitive imaging modality for detecting cancer. With improved scan resolution and correctly applied clinical indications, the specificity of breast MRI has markedly improved in recent years. Current literature indicates an overall sensitivity for breast MRI of 98% – 100% and specificity of 88%. By comparison, the sensitivity and specificity for mammography is in the region of 71% and 98%, respectively. In particular, the very high negative predictive value (NPV) of breast MRI, which approaches 100%, is hugely useful in establishing absence of disease. Furthermore, the ability to accurately delineate viable cancer by way of combining both morphological and functional (contrast enhancement) capabilities means that MRI is the best tool we have in terms of local cancer staging and identifying residual or recurrent disease. The high NPV also means that breast MRI is uniquely capable of ruling out cancer or high-grade ductal carcinoma in situ in appropriate circumstances. I hope that the following guidelines that are based on those of the American College of Radiology and the European Society of Breast Imaging in addition to multiple review articles will provide some assistance to radiologists in terms of the correct indications for breast MRI. There are few formal guidelines in South Africa for the usage of breast MRI. In fact, there is a general paucity of guidelines in the international radiology world. The role of breast MRI in high-risk screening and identification of the primary in occult breast cancer is universally accepted. Thereafter, there is little consensus. By using some general guidelines, and bringing MRI into the discussion of multidisciplinary breast cancer management, good clinical practice and consistent decision-making can be established.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-6778
print ISSN: 1027-202X