, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 1703-1709
Date: 12 Feb 2008

Screening for Recurrences in Patients Treated with Breast-Conserving Surgery: Is there a Role for MRI?

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Although it has been shown that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is more sensitive than mammography in the detection of breast cancer in high-risk populations, there is little data on the use of MRI as a screening tool to detect recurrence after breast-conserving surgery. Our objective was to determine the potential role of MRI in the screening of breast cancer patients treated with breast-conserving surgery.


Retrospective chart review of all patients undergoing margin-negative lumpectomy and adjuvant radiation therapy for infiltrating breast carcinoma between 1st January 1993 and 1st January 2004. Patients were followed for recurrence in the ipsilateral or contralateral breast by physical exam and mammography.


Four hundred and seventy-six primary tumor excisions were performed. Patients were followed for a median of 5.4 years. Ipsilateral breast recurrences developed in eight patients (1.7%) with a mean diameter of 1.6 cm. All of these women are alive and free of metastases. Contralateral cancers developed in 11 patients (2.3%) with a mean diameter of 1.5 cm. Ten of these 11 women are alive and free of disease.


In a contemporary patient population the risk of local recurrence after lumpectomy and radiation therapy is very low. If screening MRI had been a part of annual follow-up, a total of 2570 MRIs would have been performed. Given the small tumor size at detection and the excellent survival of those who recurred, annual screening MRI would have incurred significant cost and would have been unlikely to improve overall survival.