American Cancer Society Makes New Recommendations

JONESBORO, AR--The American Cancer Society released new guidelines Wednesday concerning women in the high risk category for breast cancer.

They recommend that women, who have had a family history, have had cancer, or Hodgkin's disease receive an MRI of their breast.

Kimberly Smith was in for a mammogram when an additional exam confirmed the diagnosis.

"They feel like they found something suspicious and we had an ultrasound and then an MRI and realized that I had breast cancer," said Smith.

MRI's are being more frequently used in diagnosing breast cancer. In their new guidelines the American Cancer Society is recommending women at risk for breast cancer have an MRI in addition to the mammogram and ultrasound they normally receive.

"We have now gotten to the point where with our MRI's, we can find cancers that we can't see on the mammogram or the ultrasound and that's really pushing the envelope," said diagnostic radiologist Dr. Ellen McDaniel.

Dr. McDaniel has recommended the MRI to at risk patients for almost two years because it offers another perspective of the body. St. Bernards says it's the only hospital in the area that has digital mammography and breast MRI. Doctors use a bilateral MRI where both breasts are scanned in one visit.

"Emotionally it is a traumatic experience anyway, because you are laying there and you don't know if you have cancer or not. Just to have them both done at once you get the results and I think it is just much better for the patient," said Smith.

The biggest obstacle with this new technology is cost, while a typical mammogram costs a few hundred dollars, an MRI can cost as much as $3000 and is not covered by all insurance providers. At St. Bernards Imaging Center, they hope that soon will change.

"Hopefully, now with the Cancer Society guidelines, more insurance companies will be willing to cover it," said McDaniel.

It's just another tool doctors feel will aid in early detection, which is crucial for effective treatment. For cancer patients like Smith it's peace of mind.

"It's just a relief. You want that extra security," said Smith.

The breast MRI's are not recommended to all women because a potentially high false positive rate which leads to more women receiving biopsies.

It is also important to know that a breast MRI shouldn't replace a regular mammogram exam.