An MRI scan could save the lives of many women with dense breast tissue, a large-scale Dutch study into the benefits of additional MRI screening has found.
The study, which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, could lead to the inclusion of the scan in the Dutch national breast cancer screening programme for women between 50 and 75 which currently only offers a mammography test.
Of the million women who are screened every year 80,000 have very dense breast tissue which not only makes it difficult to detect tumours but also makes it twice as likely they will develop breast cancer.
An MRI scan can pick up tumours at an early stage, the researchers found, and some 300 women a year could receive life-saving treatment early instead of being confronted with later-stage breast cancer.
The population screening costs €67m a year and that could go up by between €10m and €15m if the more expensive MRI scan were to be included, expert Ruud Pijnappel told the Volkskrant. ‘How much are we willing to pay for each year of life that will be gained? That will possibly become a political choice,’ he said.
Junior public health minister Paul Blokhuis will tell MPs on Thursday he wants to speed up the process towards a decision to include the scan ‘considering the health benefits’ and has taken the unusual step of asking both the health council and public health institute RIVM for advice. He is expected to make the decision in the summer of next year, the paper said.