Preoperative MRI in breast cancer: effect of breast density on biopsy rate and yield

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2022 Jan;191(1):177-190. doi: 10.1007/s10549-021-06418-x. Epub 2021 Oct 22.


Purpose: Preoperative breast MRI is used to evaluate for additional cancer and extent of disease for newly diagnosed breast cancer, yet benefits and harms of preoperative MRI are not well-documented. We examined whether preoperative MRI yields additional biopsy and cancer detection by extent of breast density.

Methods: We followed women in the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium with an incident breast cancer diagnosed from 2005 to 2017. We quantified breast biopsies and cancers detected within 6 months of diagnosis by preoperative breast MRI receipt, overall and by breast density, accounting for MRI selection bias using inverse probability weighted logistic regression.

Results: Among 19,324 women with newly diagnosed breast cancer, 28% had preoperative MRI, 11% additional biopsy, and 5% additional cancer detected. Four times as many women with preoperative MRI underwent additional biopsy compared to women without MRI (22.6% v. 5.1%). Additional biopsy rates with preoperative MRI increased with increasing breast density (27.4% for extremely dense compared to 16.2% for almost entirely fatty breasts). Rates of additional cancer detection were almost four times higher for women with v. without MRI (9.9% v. 2.6%). Conditional on additional biopsy, age-adjusted rates of additional cancer detection were lowest among women with extremely dense breasts, regardless of imaging modality (with MRI: 35.0%; 95% CI 27.0-43.0%; without MRI: 45.1%; 95% CI 32.6-57.5%).

Conclusion: For women with dense breasts, preoperative MRI was associated with much higher biopsy rates, without concomitant higher cancer detection. Preoperative MRI may be considered for some women, but selecting women based on breast density is not supported by evidence.

Trial registration: NCT02980848; registered 2017.

Keywords: Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium; Breast biopsy; Breast density; Cancer detection rate; Occult cancer; Preoperative MRI.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Breast Density*
  • Breast Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mammography

Associated data