Is There a role for magnetic resonance imaging in diagnosing palpable breast masses when mammogram and ultrasound are negative?

Molly L. Olsen, Marilyn J. Morton, Daniela L. Stan, Sandhya Pruthi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: The use of breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for screening high-risk patients is well established. However, the role of MRI as a diagnostic problem-solving tool is less well studied. With the increasing availability of MRI, its use for problem solving has increased. This small retrospective study examines the use and utility of breast MRI in evaluating palpable breast masses with negative diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound studies. Methods: We reviewed our breast MRI database, selecting breast MRI studies performed to assess palpable abnormalities with negative mammogram and ultrasound findings. Evidence of cancer was determined by biopsy. Results: Seventy-seven studies were included, comprising 1.3% of all breast MRI studies performed at our institution during the study period (2005-2011). Twenty-two patients underwent biopsy, and 55 were followed clinically without biopsy. Approximately half (27 of 55) of the patients without biopsy were lost to follow-up after negative MRI, and the rest had no evidence of cancer on imaging or clinical examination at 1 year. Of the 22 patients who underwent biopsy, 2 were diagnosed with cancer, both with positive MRI studies. Sensitivity of MRI when compared to tissue diagnosis was 100%, and specificity was 70%. Positive and negative predictive values were 25% and 100%, respectively. Conclusions: When used for evaluation of a palpable breast mass with negative traditional imaging, breast MRI likely offers low yield of cancer diagnosis and low specificity. Negative MRI results may cause a low compliance rate for recommended follow-up. Because a biopsy is indicated for persistent palpable masses, the addition of diagnostic MRI only adds another step, with associated costs and burdens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1149-1154
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Women's Health
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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