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Evidence to Improve Care

Magnetic Resonance Imaging as an Adjunct to Mammography for Breast Cancer Screening in Women at Less Than High Risk for Breast Cancer


Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee Recommendation

  • The Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee recommends against publicly funding screening breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as an adjunct to screening mammography for women who are at less than high risk for breast cancer and who have no personal history of breast cancer

Read the full OHTAC Recommendation report



Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women.

The most common form of screening for breast cancer is mammography (an x-ray of the breast), which can detect breast cancer early, before clinical symptoms appear. However, mammography alone may miss breast cancer in some women. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), an imaging tool that uses magnetic fields and radio waves, may be able to detect breast cancers missed by mammography.

Screening with both mammography and MRI is currently recommended for women at high risk for breast cancer.


Health Quality Ontario Reviews Magnetic Resonance Imaging as an Adjunct to Mammography for Breast Cancer Screening in Women at Less Than High Risk for Breast Cancer

Although adding MRI screening to mammography may detect more cancers, it may also increase the frequency of false-positive test results (test results that show a woman has breast cancer when she does not). False-positive test results can lead to anxiety and unnecessary follow-up testing.

The Health Quality Ontario review looked at the impact of MRI as an adjunct test to mammography for breast cancer screening in women at less than high risk for breast cancer.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging as an Adjunct to Mammography for Breast Cancer Screening in Women at Less Than High Risk for Breast Cancer: A Health Technology Assessment (PDF)
November 2016


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The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has accepted this recommendation.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has provided the following response: Health Quality Ontario’s recommendation aligns with the current standard of care delivered and funded through Cancer Care Ontario’s Ontario Breast Screening Program.




Health Technology Assessment at Health Quality Ontario

As part of our core function to promote health care supported by the best available evidence, we use established scientific methods to analyze the evidence for a wide range of health interventions, including diagnostic tests, medical devices, interventional and surgical procedures, health care programs and models of care. These analyses are informed by input from a range of individuals, including patients and clinical experts. The Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee (OHTAC) — a committee of the Health Quality Ontario board of directors — reviews the evidence and makes recommendations about whether health care interventions should be publicly funded or not. Draft recommendations are posted on the Health Quality Ontario website for feedback. Final recommendations are approved by our board of directors and then shared with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. For more detailed information, visit our Evidence to Improve Care pages.


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