Detecting breast cancer FASTer - Cape Cod Healthcare

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Published on June 20, 2016

Detecting breast cancer FASTerDetecting breast cancer FASTer

The wave of the future in breast cancer screening is now available on Cape Cod.

A “FAST” scan breast MRI, which is a shorter version of the diagnostic breast MRI, is a new tool in the screening process for women who wish to have an additional level of testing between their annual mammograms.

The screening is available at the Cuda Women’s Health Center in Hyannis and at Seifer Women's Health and Imaging Center at Falmouth Hospital. The tool is offered to women who have no symptoms, but may have dense breasts.

FAST MRI essentially takes a diagnostic breast MRI, shortens it, and makes it affordable and accessible for all women.

The procedure, called First Post-Contrast Subtracted Images – or FAST – MRIs, has been shown to be comparable in quality to longer MRI screening tests. Unlike mammography, which uses low-dose X-ray to show anatomical images inside the breast, MRI shows vascular function within the breast, which can show blood flow to and from a tumor. The screening can detect smaller and more invasive cancers.

The FAST screening tool at Cuda and Seifer is offered to women who have no symptoms but may have dense breasts. It is especially for women who want that extra layer of testing for reassurance between their annual mammograms.

“The gold standard for screening is still the mammogram,” said Anne Morris, MD, a diagnostic radiologist at Cuda Women’s Health Center. But, together, mammogram and FAST MRI can offer a more complete picture.

A diagnostic breast MRI usually takes about 40 minutes compared to FAST breast MRI, which takes about three minutes to complete.

The test, although not currently covered by health insurance, is available as a self-pay opportunity.

A study done by Christiane K. Kuhl et al at the University of Bonn and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology [pdf], concluded that using specific sequences of the diagnostic breast MRI and reducing testing time to three minutes as opposed to the average 17 minutes, as well as a shorter read time by a radiologist, was sufficient to confirm the absence of cancer.

The 443 women in the study had normal or benign digital mammograms. Eleven breast cancers were diagnosed among the women in the study with the long and shortened MRIs yielding the same results.

The study also accurately predicted the absence of breast cancer by 99.8% indicating that women with a negative screening truly didn’t have breast cancer.

There are many reasons that Dr. Morris believes FAST MRI is especially important for Cape women. Among the reasons are:

  • Statistics as well as readings of diagnostic breast studies by the Cape Cod Healthcare radiologists show there is a high risk of breast cancer on the Cape.
  • Health insurance does not cover diagnostic breast MRI for women who are at a high risk due to dense breast tissue.
  • The Breast Density Inform Law, that became effective in Massachusetts in 2015, requires providers to inform women found to have dense breast tissue.
  • Health insurance does not cover supplemental screening.
  • Breast MRI looks at tumors that are vascular and can grow quickly during the time between annual mammograms.
  • If an abnormality is found on the FAST breast MRI, the patient will proceed to a diagnostic MRI, which is generally covered by health insurance.
  • It is a good tool for detecting small tumors not seen on mammogram.
  • It can pick up cancers that breast ultrasound misses.

Women who are considering a FAST breast MRI can request an appointment online.

Click here to learn more about the benefits of early detection and schedule your routine screening mammogram today.