10-minute scan could help significantly reduce prostate cancer deaths

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Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers found in men, claiming more than 47,000 new victims every year in the UK.

Over 50-year-olds who experience red flag signs, including needing to use the loo more often and having blood in their urine, can request a blood test.

However, the tests, which look for high levels of a protein called PSA, have been linked to over-diagnosis and over-treatment of low-risk cancer.

Fortunately, a new study, published in BMJ Oncology, suggests this is where a 10-minute MRI scan could step in.

The scans proved far more accurate at diagnosing prostate cancer compared to the blood tests.

READ MORE Red flag sign of prostate cancer 43% of men ignore – expert urges to get checked

MRI tests manage to identify some serious cancers that would have been missed by PSA alone.

Looking at 303 men between the ages of 50 and 75 who were invited for MRI screening and PSA tests, which were carried out at University College Hospital, the research team found 48 had a positive MRI that indicated cancer and of these 25 were diagnosed with significant cancer after further tests, including biopsies.

Worryingly, more than half the men whose cancer was picked up on MRI had low PSA test scores below 3ng/ml, which is considered normal.

These men would have been falsely reassured they were cancer-free.

Professor Caroline Moore, consultant urologist UCLH and chief investigator of the study, said: “Our results give an early indication that MRI could offer a more reliable method of detecting potentially serious cancers early, with the added benefit that less than one percent of participants were ‘over-diagnosed’ with low-risk disease.”

While PSA tests are considered useful indicators of prostate cancer, high levels can also be caused by recent infection or vigorous exercise and sex, and not only cancer.

This can lead to overdiagnosis of cancer but PSA might also miss cancer like the study suggested.

The research team believes that prostate MRI could be used for screening but they also said that a larger study is currently needed.

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However, they believe that this new approach could “significantly” reduce prostate cancer deaths.

Professor Mark Emberton, senior author of the study, said: “The UK prostate cancer mortality rate is twice as high as in countries like the US or Spain because our levels of testing are much lower. 

“Given how treatable prostate cancer is when caught early, I’m confident that a national screening programme will reduce the UK’s prostate cancer mortality rate significantly.”

The professor added that a screening programme could be up and running within the next decade.

What’s more, early detection of prostate cancer can buy precious time to intervene.

Simon Grieveson, assistant director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “Sadly, more than 10,000 men each year are diagnosed too late, when their cancer has already spread.

“MRI scans have revolutionised the way we diagnose prostate cancer, and it’s great to see research into how we might use these scans even more effectively. 

“These results are extremely exciting, and we now want to see much larger, UK-wide studies to understand if using MRI as the first step in getting tested could form the basis of a national screening programme.”

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