Onega T, Tosteson AN, Weiss J, Alford-Teaster J, Hubbard RA, Henderson LM, Kerlikowske K, Goodrich ME, O’Donoghue C, Wernli KJ, DeMartini WB, Virnig BA. BMC Health Serv Res. 2016 Feb 27;16:76. doi: 10.1186/s12913-016-1317-6.



Breast cancer in the U.S. – estimated at 232,670 incident cases in 2014 – has the highest aggregate economic burden of care relative to other female cancers. Yet, the amount of cost attributed to diagnostic/preoperative work up has not been characterized. We examined the costs of imaging and biopsy among women enrolled in Medicare who did and did not receive diagnostic/preoperative Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).


Using Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)- Medicare data, we compared the per capita costs (PCC) based on amount paid, between diagnosis date and primary surgical treatment for a breast cancer diagnosis (2005-2009) with and without diagnostic/preoperative MRI. We compared the groups with and without MRI using multivariable models, adjusting for woman and tumor characteristics.


Of the 53,653 women in the cohort, within the diagnostic/preoperative window, 20 % (N = 10,776) received diagnostic/preoperative MRI. Total unadjusted median costs were almost double for women with MRI vs. without ($2,251 vs. $1,152). Adjusted costs were higher among women receiving MRI, with significant differences in total costs ($1,065), imaging costs ($928), and biopsies costs ($138).


Costs of diagnostic/preoperative workups among women with MRI are higher than those without. Using these cost estimates in comparative effectiveness models should be considered when assessing the benefits and harms of diagnostic/preoperative MRI.