New San Jose Clinic Criticized for Advertising Unapproved MRI Test for Breast Cancer
A new clinic in San Jose opened by AmeriScan -- known for its "controversial and aggressively advertised" full-body scans -- is offering $2,200 magnetic resonance imaging testing for breast cancer, "drawing outrage" from activists and experts who claim a $100 mammogram is just as effective, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The MRI, which is not covered by insurance, has yet to be approved for breast cancer detection by the federal government or cancer authorities, but in the first two days of operation, the clinic drew more than two dozen women. AmeriScan is "tapping into a growing distrust among women about the reliability of mammograms" caused in part by a "highly publicized" study last October, the Mercury News reports (Krieger, San Jose Mercury News, 9/13). The study found "serious flaws" in seven large studies on mammograms, which prompted advisers to the National Cancer Institute to conclude in January that the "benefits of mammograms might not outweigh the risks" (California Healthline, 3/15).
Breast cancer activists and experts believe that an MRI is not a substitute for a mammogram, which is covered by insurance, and say that AmeriScan's advertising pitch for MRIs is "unethical" and "exploiting women's fears," according to the Mercury News. Dr. Nola Hylton, a radiologist with the University of California-San Francisco, said, "It is totally premature to make any sort of recommendation to replace mammogram screening with MRI," adding, "[T]he cost is outrageous." An MRI takes hundreds of images through each breast, compared to one image from a mammogram. An MRI also shows blood flow patterns that are "characteristic of cancer," according to Dr. Craig Bittner, AmeriScan founder and director. The FDA cannot regulate practices in clinics like AmeriScan's but cautions consumers that MRIs are not approved for breast cancer screening. AmeriScan already has one other breast cancer screening clinic open in Arizona and plans to open others in San Francisco and six other cities within a few months (San Jose Mercury News, 9/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.