MRI scans could revolutionise prostate cancer screening

Prostate cancer kills around 11,800 men every year in the UK and there is currently no routine screening procedure due to unreliable tests, however the advent of MRI scanning could change this.

A study conducted by ReIMAGINE is investigating whether MRI scans can be incorporated into prostate cancer screening procedures in order to produce more accurate diagnoses at an earlier stage. Currently there are no routine screening procedures for prostate cancer due to the unreliability of existing diagnostic tests, despite the fact that this cancer often presents few symptoms.

Karen Stalbow, from Prostate Cancer UK, commented that:

“This trial could provide an exciting step towards our ambition for a national screening programme that enables men to get the early prostate cancer diagnosis that can save more lives. If the results are positive, then MRI scanning could offer a non-invasive first stage of prostate cancer diagnosis in the future.”

ReIMAGINE are using the MRI scans in two different studies:

  • A study of 1000 men with medium to high-risk prostate cancers, to see if MRI scans can predict cancer progression more accurately than current methods
  • A study of 300 men whose prostate cancer risk is unknown, to see if MRI scans can detect abnormalities more accurately than current methods

Co-researcher Professor Caroline Moore commented that:

“We know that at the moment around 6,000 men a year are diagnosed with late-stage [prostate] cancer, where it is not curable. And we know that if we could detect those men at an earlier stage, where it would be curable, we would be in a much better position.”

Current testing methods are unreliable; 75% of those identified as high-risk in the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test do not have prostate cancer, and approximately 10% of sufferers are missed in this test. Similarly, biopsies can miss or misidentify the aggressiveness of cancers and can have unpleasant side-effects such as bleeding, infections and urine retention.

By comparison, the advantages of MRI scans are:

  • Non-invasive
  • Reliable results
  • Earlier detection (if used as part of a regular screening process)
  • Widespread availability
  • Relatively cost-effective

Researcher Professor Emberton commented that:

“MRI scanning for prostate cancer could also help a quarter of a million men, maybe up to half a million men a year, to avoid an unnecessary biopsy if the MRI is negative. The majority of men will be reassured they don’t have prostate cancer and importantly they may be able to avoid the harms of a biopsy, plus healthcare systems will be able to avoid the costs.”

For further information about this study, visit the ReIMAGINE website here.

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Published on 12. June 2019 in News, News UK