Breast MRIs

Merrill Goozner points to a study suggesting that newly diagnosed breast cancer patients who had breast MRIs were more likely to have mastectomies.

Cutting edge imaging tests tend to be very sensitive (i.e. better at picking up disease), but there tends to be too many false positives (i.e. the specificity isn’t there yet).

Doctors generally act on positive tests, as watchful waiting is generally not supported by patients. Thus, it’s no surprise that advanced imaging studies lead to more procedures.

Educating the patient on the consequences of false positives will be key to reining in the hype surrounding new diagnostic modalities.