Annual MRI scans for at-risk women


GUERNSEY’S breast unit has backed new guidelines that women aged between 20 and 49 with a family history of breast cancer should have MRI scans annually

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has ruled that those in their 20s who carry the TP53 mutation, which puts them at exceptionally high risk, should be offered the scans.
Consultant radiologist Louise Gaunt said that women in the high-risk age bracket would be screened with the new MRI scanner to be installed at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital in the summer.
‘If there are women identified through the family history assessment process who require breast MRI, the images will be obtained in Guernsey and sent for specialist reporting, as currently happens with screening mammograms,’ she said.
Nice guidelines recommend that the interpretation of screening images are reviewed independently so all MRI images will be sent to Southampton to be examined by two separate radiologists.
Dr Gaunt expected MRI scans to be more expensive than mammograms, but if cancers were detected earlier, the overall treatment would be shorter and overall costs reduced.
‘However, from current experience, the breast-care team feel there will be only a small number of women meeting the criteria for annual screening with MRI.’
In the UK such scans cost about £350 while a mammogram is £35.
Nice also recommends those who carry the Brac1 and Brac2 genes should have an annual scan once they reach 30.
The unit already follows its guidelines for women with a family history of breast cancer, for assessment of individual risk and also to determine whether there should be a referral to the Genetics Advisory Service in Southampton.
‘At present there are some women from Guernsey participating in a trial of MRI for the detection of breast cancer in the younger, at-risk group, run by Southampton,’ said Dr Gaunt.
The screening programme in the island is free and women are screened every two years between the ages of 50 and 75.

GEP Article by Gemma Hockey 6/11/2006

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