Role of breast magnetic resonance imaging in predicting malignant invasion of the nipple-areolar complex: Potential predictors and reliability between inter-observers

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In this study, we assessed the diagnostic accuracy of breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for evaluation of malignant invasion of the nipple-areolar complex (NAC).

Patients with primary operable breast cancer who underwent preoperative breast MRI and received surgery during January 2011 to December 2013 were collected. The accuracy and potential factors of MRI in predicting nipple invasion were evaluated by comparing preoperative MRI with postoperative histopathologic findings. The consistency of interobservers’ variances across different radiologists was also compared.

Totally, 704 patients were enrolled in this study, and 56 (8%) patients have pathologic NAC invasion. Several MRI factors were potential predictors of nipple invasion. Only unilateral nipple enhancement on MRI was the most significant independent predictor of NAC involvement in multivariate analysis. The statistical measures, such as sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), negative predictive value (NPV), and the accuracy of breast MRI were 71.4%, 81.6%, 25.2%, 97.1%, and 80.8%, respectively, in one investigator and 78.6%, 88.1%, 36.4%, 97.9%, and 87.4%, respectively, in the other investigator.

MR images showed acceptable accuracy and impressive NPV, but low PPV in evaluation of malignant NAC invasion preoperatively. MRI finding of unilateral nipple enhancement was the most significant predictor of NAC involvement.

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