MRIs of dense breasts find more cancer but also false alarms

New research finds that for women with very dense breasts, having an MRI scan in addition to a mammogram can led to fewer missed cancers but also to a lot of false alarms and treatments that might not have been needed.

About half of women over 40 have dense breasts and about 10% have very dense ones. That raises their risk of developing cancer and makes it harder to spot on mammograms if they do. It’s not known if more or different types of screening can help.

The study published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine involved 40,000 Dutch women. The results give a clearer picture of the tradeoffs involved in adding MRI but doesn’t answer the biggest question — whether the test saves lives.

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