Skip the MRI before breast cancer surgery

Researchers warn that pre-surgery MRI can lead to more radical treatment and higher cost—but not better outcomes.

I’ve reported before that many of the medical tests out there are a waste of money—or worse, a risk to your health. Well, here’s another example of science proving that advice right.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may do a better job than x-ray or ultrasound at producing sharp images for detecting new breast cancers. But once breast cancer is diagnosed, new research from Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York shows that preoperative MRIs for staging the cancer may do more harm than good.1

More than one-quarter of women with preoperative MRIs ended  up having their entire breast removed by cancer surgery. That’s compared to less than one-fifth of women without an MRI.

Researchers are now questioning whether the MRI leads surgeons to remove more breast tissue than necessary. This of course leads to additional costs and complications, not to mention the cosmetic effects. And let’s not forget the fact that an MRI itself adds another $1,000 to the overall medical bill.

Experts now question whether MRIs have any place in breast cancer surgery and findings show that you can skip the pre-operative MRI.

For additional medical tests you should consider skipping, refer back to the November 2012 issue of Insiders’ Cures.


1. Weber JJ, Bellin LS, Milbourn DE, Verbanac KM, Wong JH. Selective preoperative magnetic resonance imaging in women with breast cancer: no reduction in the reoperation rate. Arch Surg. 2012;147(9):834-839.