Annals of Surgical Oncology

, Volume 19, Issue 9, pp 3035–3041 | Cite as

Use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Detection of Breast Cancer Recurrence: A Systematic Review

  • Edel Marie Quinn
  • Andrew Peter Coveney
  • Henry Paul Redmond
Breast Oncology



Diagnosis of breast cancer recurrence can be difficult as a result of the presence of scar tissue in the breast. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be superior to traditional imaging in diagnosis of recurrence because of its ability to differentiate malignancy from scarring. Current guidelines on investigation of suspected breast cancer recurrence recommend MRI when other investigations have equivocal findings. We performed the first systematic review on this topic.


Literature search revealed 35 potentially relevant studies; 10 were included in final analysis. Included were clinical studies comparing MRI with another diagnostic modality for diagnosis of breast cancer recurrence, with at least 10 patients, in the English language. Data extraction focused on sensitivity and specificity of standard diagnostic modalities and MRI for diagnosis of local disease recurrence.


In total 494 patients were assessed across 10 studies; all were case series. Sensitivity of MRI for detection of recurrence ranged 75–100 %, while specificity ranged 66.6–100 %. Both sensitivity and specificity increased when MRI was performed after a longer time interval from the original surgery, although the longest follow-up reported was only 36 months. A negative MRI can avoid the need for further biopsy.


Available data are based on clinically heterogeneous case series and superiority over standard triple assessment for breast cancer recurrence has not been proven. At present, MRI cannot be recommended in the routine diagnostic assessment for breast cancer recurrence but has a potentially useful role as a second-line investigation. A negative MRI is more useful than a positive MRI as positive MRIs require further investigation.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging Invasive Lobular Carcinoma Breast Cancer Recurrence Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technique 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest or external funding sources.


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Copyright information

© Society of Surgical Oncology 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edel Marie Quinn
    • 1
  • Andrew Peter Coveney
    • 1
  • Henry Paul Redmond
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Academic SurgeryCork University Hospital/University College CorkCorkIreland

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