(NaturalNews) Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the breasts are so sensitive that they detect large numbers of non-cancerous tumors and lead to unnecessary breast removal surgeries, according to an editorial by surgeon Malcom Kell in the British Medical Journal.
Regular, x-ray-based mammograms have drawn criticism in recent years for their high rate of false positive results - the detection of benign tumors - leading to anxiety in patients and a higher rate of invasive and potentially dangerous procedures such as biopsies and even cancer treatment.
"Women who underwent a surgical biopsy as the result of a false positive mammogram screening 'were more likely to report their work-up as a stressful experience than those who did not have a biopsy.' So wrote members of the 1996 Task Force, in a statement of the obvious," write Gerald E. Markle and Frances B. McCrea in their book What If Medicine Disappeared?
"This anxiety persisted long after the positive test was identified as false."
Magnetic resonance mammography (MRM) is even more sensitive than standard mammography, and is increasingly being offered to young women who have been judged at high genetic risk for breast cancer. According to a study in The Lancet, MRM detects 92 percent of early breast lesions, while x-ray mammograms detect only 56 percent.
But not all lesions lead to cancer. Indeed, the only major study of MRM use in early cancer detection found that women who used MRM screening had the same risk of cancer recurrence as women who had not used the devices. Breast surgeon Kefah Mokbel of the London Breast Institute estimates that MRMs have a false positive rate of roughly 25 percent.
Even more alarming is evidence that false positives are leading to unnecessary breast removal (mastectomy) surgeries. The same Lancet study found that mastectomy rates were seven times higher among MRM patients than among those not undergoing that type of screening.
"[There is] no compelling evidence that this technique should be routinely used in newly diagnosed breast cancer," Kell said.