A new method for regularly screening women with dense breast tissue may potentially save thousands of lives by detecting cancer four to six years earlier than traditional mammographic technology allows. Based on research by Dr. David A. Strahle, chairman of Flint-based Regional Medical Imaging, the Rapid Breast MRI cuts scan time by 70 percent while significantly reducing costs.
“Mammograms are like trying to see a thunderstorm through clouds without radar,” says Dr. Strahle. “MRI sees through dense tissue, allowing radiologists to spot virtually all suspicious tumors.”
Mammograms are the current standard for breast cancer screening, and due to its costs, MRI’s are generally reserved for women with a high risk of breast cancer — approximately 2 percent of the population. For women with dense breast tissue, however, mammograms are not as effective as an MRI for spotting cancer.
“This is a major breakthrough,” Strahle says. “I can see a day when we can prevent this disease from killing women.
Strahle’s research was conducted with 671 women over seven years, and his peer-reviewed paper was published on Jan. 30.
Although insurance providers do not yet cover Rapid Breast MRI, the exam costs $395 out-of-pocket at RMI, while a diagnostic MRI runs $700 or more. Because the screening is more thorough, the exams can potentially be performed every other year, as opposed to the yearly recommendation for mammograms. This equates to an annual cost of $198, less than the average cost of breast cancer screening of $252, Strahle says.