A report, published in British medical journal The Lancet, estimates an MRI could help 27 per cent of men avoid an unwarranted biopsy, during which a small sample of tissue is removed from the body for examination.
Adding an early MRI scan could also reduce the number of men who are diagnosed with a cancer that later proves harmless by 5 per cent, researchers found.
Angela Culhane, chief executive for Prostate Cancer UK, praised the findings as a ‘huge leap forward’ for the ‘notoriously imperfect’ diagnostic processes currently used.
Prostate cancer: Some men with no cancer or harmless cancers are sometimes given the wrong diagnosis
he 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.”
They found a specific form of scanning MRI scan can provide detailed information about the cancer, such as how well-connected to the bloodstream it is. Experts said this could in turn help distinguish between aggressive and harmless types of cancer.
As part of the study more than 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 – were given an MRI scan followed by two types of biopsy.
Prostate cancer: MRI scans could prevent the need for biopsies
Dr Hashim Ahmed, of the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH), said the current biopsy test could be inaccurate because tissue samples were selected at random.
“This means it cannot confirm whether a cancer is aggressive or not and can miss aggressive cancers that are actually there,” he said.
”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.”
Prostate cancer: Men with a raised PSA can have an MRI scan before a biopsy
The organisation was already working with clinical experts and professional bodies to investigate how a rollout of the MRI scan method may unfold, she said.
The Medical Research Council said an approximate 100,000 men every year in the UK undergo a type of biopsy – with about 66 per cent found to have no cancer or no life-threatening cancer.
The study was conducted by researchers from a range of institutions, including University College London, and funded by bodies including the UK Department of Health.