Huge step forward in prostate cancer testing

The use of multi-parametric MRI to detect prostate cancer has shown to detect more cancers and reduce the need for unnecessary biopsies.

As reported by BBC News and published in the Lancet, a trial of 576 men was shown to dramatically increase the accuracy of cancer detection.  Currently, testing for prostate cancer can involve a blood test and a subsequent biopsy (using needles to take small samples of prostate tissue) if high levels of a protein known as ‘prostate specific antigen’ (PSA) is detected.  However, biopsies of the prostate can be inaccurate, missing cancer that may be there, or unnecessary if cancer is not present.  Biopsies can also lead to unpleasant side effects such as infections.

The trial used a type of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging, a type of scan using magnetic and radio waves, pictured) to map men’s prostates after blood tests.  BBC News reports that these scans showed 27% of the men involved did not need a biopsy at all, and for those who went on to have a biopsy, using the scan to guide the biopsy doubled the success rate for detecting aggressive cancers.

Dr Philip Haslam, Chair of the British Society of Urogenital Radiology lauded the results as “a huge leap forward in prostate cancer diagnosis”. The NHS is now considering whether it is cost-effective to introduce the new screening approach.

More information on prostate cancer is available on our information pages.