University Hospitals part of study showing ‘Fast Breast MRIs’ outperform 3-D mammograms

CLEVELAND — According to a new study published Feb. 25 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, abbreviated breast magnetic resonance imaging (also known as “Fast Breast MRI”) detected significantly more cancers than digital breast tomosynthesis (3-D mammography) in average-risk women with dense breast tissue.

The study compared Fast Breast MRI, which is a 10-minute MRI exam, to 3-D mammography, in women with dense breasts, because the ability of mammography to detect breast cancer is limited in these women.

UH was one of the sites that enrolled patients for the national study, which closed to new patients in the end of 2017. University Hospitals, has been offering Fast Breast MRI screenings for women with dense breasts at multiple sites in the health system since 2018 and has completed over 1,300 exams.

Donna Plecha, MD, Chair of the Department of Radiology at UH, said, “When screening women at average risk for breast cancer with dense breasts, the study found that Fast Breast MRIs detected significantly more (almost two and a half times as many) breast cancers as 3-D mammography. While mammography is less expensive than MRIs, it is less effective at detecting cancers in dense breasts. MRIs have been limited to women with high risk factors, but this study showed that 10 minute MRIs were more effective than 3-D mammograms at finding cancers in dense tissue in women of average risk.”

Currently, Fast Breast MRI is not covered by insurance and has an out of pocket cost of $250. “Our hope is that this study will help insurers see the benefit of the new test to improve early detection of breast cancer,” said Dr. Plecha, although she said more research needs to occur on its cost-effectiveness and impact on reducing deaths from breast cancer.

UH was part of the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group (ECOG-ACRIN) which designed and conducted the study with funding from the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, and Bracco Diagnostics Inc. (Monroe Township, NJ).

Despite current screening methods, more than 40,000 women die annually from breast cancer. The ability of mammography to detect breast cancer is especially limited in women with dense breast tissue. Having dense breasts is not an abnormal condition; in fact, about half of all women over the age of 40 have dense breasts.

Women in the study were between the ages of 40 and 75, had dense breasts on their prior mammogram, and did not currently have breast cancer or any clinical symptoms. A total of 1,444 women were in the study, all of whom were screened with both 3-D mammography and Fast Breast MRI within 24 hours. Participants were screened twice in the study, first as a baseline and again after one year, and are being followed for three additional years.


For more information about Fast MRI at UH:

About University Hospitals / Cleveland, Ohio

Founded in 1866, University Hospitals serves the needs of patients through an integrated network of 18 hospitals, more than 50 health centers and outpatient facilities, and 200 physician offices in 16 counties throughout northern Ohio. The system’s flagship academic medical center, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, located in Cleveland’s University Circle, is affiliated with Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. The main campus also includes University Hospitals Rainbow Babies Children’s Hospital, ranked among the top children’s hospitals in the nation; University Hospitals MacDonald Women’s Hospital, Ohio’s only hospital for women; University Hospitals Harrington Heart Vascular Institute, a high-volume national referral center for complex cardiovascular procedures; and University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, part of the NCI-designated Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. UH is home to some of the most prestigious clinical and research programs in the nation, including cancer, pediatrics, women’s health, orthopedics, radiology, neuroscience, cardiology and cardiovascular surgery, digestive health, transplantation and urology. UH Cleveland Medical Center is perennially among the highest performers in national ranking surveys, including “America’s Best Hospitals” from U.S. News World Report. UH is also home to Harrington Discovery Institute at University Hospitals – part of The Harrington Project for Discovery Development. UH is one of the largest employers in Northeast Ohio with 28,000 physicians and employees.

Advancing the Science of Health and the Art of Compassion is UH’s vision for benefitting its patients into the future, and the organization’s unwavering mission is To Heal. To Teach. To Discover. Follow UH on LinkedIn, Facebook @UniversityHospitals and Twitter @UHhospitals. For more information, visit