A study has found that suspected prostate cancer sufferers needed to undergo an initial MRI scan for improving the detection of aggressive forms of the disease and reducing the number of men undergoing unnecessary biopsies.
According to the report published in British medical journal The Lancet, 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.
The researchers found that adding an MRI scan could also cut the number of men diagnosed with a cancer that later proved harmless, by 5 per cent.
They found a multi-parametric MRI scan could provide detailed information about the cancer, such as how well-connected to the bloodstream it was, which could in turn help distinguish between aggressive and harmless types.
Over 570 men with suspected prostate cancer – that is, 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 as part of the study.
According to the researchers the MRI scan correctly identified 93 per cent of aggressive cancers, while most commonly used biopsy type only diagnosed about half.
Though prostate cancer was the most common cancer in British men, the testing for it was hardly perfect.
Men are advised to go for biopsy, it they had high prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels in the blood.
Random samples are then drawn with needles from the whole of the prostate. The procedure could miss a cancer that was there, fail to spot whether it was aggressive, and cause side-effects including bleeding, serious infections and erectile dysfunction.
"Taking a random biopsy from the breast would not be accepted, but we accept that in prostate," said Dr Hashim Ahmed, a consultant and one of the researchers.