Dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging for risk-stratified screening in women with BRCA mutations or high familial risk for breast cancer: are we there yet?



Women at an elevated lifetime risk for breast cancer (BC), including carriers of pathogenic mutations in BC predisposition genes, are recommended intensified BC screening that includes annual mammography (MG) and annual breast MRI. Controversy exists regarding the clinical utility of MRI as a screening tool in high-risk women. This paper is intended to review recent advances and remaining areas of uncertainty in order to further facilitate the incorporation of breast MRI into an intensified BC screening protocol for women at high familial risk and BRCA carriers.


A multidisciplinary team of medical oncologists and a radiologist specializing in the treatment of BC and high-risk patients searched PubMed to identify studies deemed to have the highest scientific value. Since none of the initial MRI studies were randomized, meta-analyses examining breast MRI screening in high-risk women were prioritized for inclusion.


Breast MRI performs well in high-risk women, including mutation carriers. Breast MRI screening allows for the detection of early stage, likely curable invasive BC. It is mandatory that radiologists receive appropriate MRI training to reduce false positives and unnecessary biopsies. MRI screening is cost-effective in the highest risk patients and new clinical trials are open examining abbreviated and ultra-fast MRI techniques as a tool to drive down costs and improve specificity.


As breast MRI is recommended as part of an intensified screening program in addition to mammography for high-risk women, it important that health care providers understand the benefits and limitations of this screening modality for high-risk women, as well as areas for further investigation.

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Funding was supported by National Cancer Institute [Nos. P20 CA233307, CA006695, K12CA139160].

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Correspondence to Deepa Sheth or Olufunmilayo I. Olopade.

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Dr. Olopade disclosed stock ownership in Tempus and CancerIQ.

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Whitaker, K.D., Sheth, D. & Olopade, O.I. Dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging for risk-stratified screening in women with BRCA mutations or high familial risk for breast cancer: are we there yet?. Breast Cancer Res Treat 183, 243–250 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10549-020-05759-3

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  • High-risk screening
  • Breast MRI
  • Breast cancer
  • Breast imaging
  • BRCA1/2 carriers