London: UK women with a family history of breast cancer are to be offered free MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans from the state health service, the NHS.
Currently, women who have lost close family members to the disease can undergo a genetic test to see if they carry genes that greatly increase their likelihood of developing the cancer.
If they test positive for the faulty versions of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes they are able at the age of 40 onwards, to have an annual mammograms, an X-ray scan to detect the disease.
Now carriers of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes – will be given scans from the age of 30. The tests, which use magnetic waves rather than X-rays, are twice as effective at detecting breast tumours in younger women.
Studies have yet to show if MRI scans are also better at picking up tumours in older women.
GPs will assess eligibility for MRI scanning, which will start within three months.