British doctors and medical researchers recently announced what they are describing as the biggest leap in diagnosing prostate cancer “in decades”. According to a report published in The Lancet, doctors reported that using advanced MRI scans nearly doubled the number of aggressive tumors caught in a clinical trial that included 576 men in the UK.
One of the co-chief investigators in the study, Mr Hashim Ahmed, who works at University College London Hospitals, was optimistic in his thoughts about the study: “This is a significant step-change in the way we diagnose prostate cancer. We have to look at the long-term survival, but in my opinion by improving the detection of important cancers that are currently missed we could see a considerable impact.”
Advanced MRI Scans: Greater Precision in Locating Aggressive Tumors
According to the doctors conducting the study, the current process for testing for prostate cancer is less than ideal. If men are founded to have elevated PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels, they are given a biopsy of their prostate gland. In that process, doctors insert 12 needles into prostate, taking samples randomly from the entire prostate.
This process can result in doctors completely missing the presence of cancerous cells or failing to note whether any observed cancer is aggressive. Moreover, this approach risks significant side-effects including bleeding, serious infections and erectile dysfunction.
Led by the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit and conducted at eleven hospitals across the UK, this medical trial used multi-parametric MRI on men with high PSA levels. The MRI results showed 27% of the men did not require any subsequent biopsy. Additionally, a very impressive 93% of aggressive cancers were detected by using the MRI scan to guide the biopsy – compared with just 48% when the biopsy was done at random.
Wider Consideration by the NHS
In light of the dramatically improved accuracy of testing when using the advanced MRI, the British NHS is considering whether this new prostate cancer screening approach is feasible from a cost perspective.
It is too early to discern what this study will mean for prostate cancer screening in the US. Yet, given the enthusiasm of the chairman of the British Society of Urogenital Radiology for the findings – “Today’s findings represent a huge leap forward in prostate cancer diagnosis.”– the study is likely to garner the attention of doctors and researchers on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Read the original article online: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38665618
Read the report abstract in The Lancet: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)32401-1/abstract