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Leap in prostate cancer diagnosis says MRI could help men avoid biopsy

23 January 2017 11:19

MRIs could avoid 27% of men having to undergo a biopsy

MRIs could avoid 27% of men having to undergo a biopsy

Thousands of men may be able to avoid undergoing a biopsy to detect prostate cancer, as research shows MRI scans could be used to detect aggressive forms of the disease.

A study of 570 men with suspected prostate cancer - those found to have elevated levels of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) protein in their blood or other symptoms - correctly identified 93% of aggressive cancers.

Comparatively, the commonly used biopsy only diagnosed around 50% of cases.

A biopsy collects a small tissue sample from the body for examination.

A report, now published in British medical journal The Lancet, estimates that 27% of men could avoid having to undergo the procedure.

Lead author Dr Hashim Ahmed, of the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH), says the random selection of tissue samples means the current biopsy test could be inaccurate and does not confirm the aggressiveness of a cancer.

It could also miss aggressive cancers that are actually there, Dr Ahmed claims.

"Because of this, some men with no cancer or harmless cancers are sometimes given the wrong diagnosis and are then treated even though this offers no survival benefit and can often cause side effects," he added.

"On top of these errors in diagnosis, the current biopsy test can cause side effects such as bleeding, pain and serious infections."

Sufferers of prostate cancer can take out specialised medical travel insurance when planning a holiday.

Huge leap forward

Prostate Cancer UK is now working with clinical experts and professional bodies to determine how a rollout of the MRI scan method can work.

Chief executive of the research organisation, Angela Culhane, praised the findings as a "huge leap forward".

She said: "The results from the (trial) make it clear that giving men with raised PSA an mpMRI scan before a biopsy can help increase the number of aggressive cancers detected whilst reducing the number of unnecessary biopsies for men."

"This is the biggest leap forward in prostate cancer diagnosis in decades with the potential to save many lives."