Cost-effectiveness of Screening BRCA1/2 Mutation Carriers With Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging

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Women with inherited BRCA1/2 mutations are at high risk for breast cancer, which mammography often misses. Screening with contrast-enhanced breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) detects cancer earlier but increases costs and results in more false-positive scans.


To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of screening BRCA1/2 mutation carriers with mammography plus breast MRI compared with mammography alone.

Design, Setting, and Patients:

A computer model that simulates the life histories of individual BRCA1/2 mutation carriers, incorporating the effects of mammographic and MRI screening was used. The accuracy of mammography and breast MRI was estimated from published data in high-risk women. Breast cancer survival in the absence of screening was based on the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results database of breast cancer patients diagnosed in the prescreening period (1975-1981), adjusted for the current use of adjuvant therapy. Utilization rates and costs of diagnostic and treatment interventions were based on a combination of published literature and Medicare payments for 2005.

Main Outcome Measures:

The survival benefit, incremental costs, and cost-effectiveness of MRI screening strategies, which varied by ages of starting and stopping MRI screening, were computed separately for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers.


Screening strategies that incorporate annual MRI as well as annual mammography have a cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained ranging from less than $45 000 to more than $700 000, depending on the ages selected for MRI screening and the specific BRCA mutation. Relative to screening with mammography alone, the cost per QALY gained by adding MRI from ages 35 to 54 years is $55 420 for BRCA1 mutation carriers, $130 695 for BRCA2 mutation carriers, and $98 454 for BRCA2 mutation carriers who have mammographically dense breasts.


Breast MRI screening is more cost-effective for BRCA1 than BRCA2 mutation carriers. The cost-effectiveness of adding MRI to mammography varies greatly by age.

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