London: A new study suggests that one in four men with suspected prostate cancer could avoid invasive and potentially dangerous biopsy if given an MRI scan first.
Biopsy is a medical procedure in which a sample of tissue is taken from the body for examination to determine the presence or extent of a disease.
Researchers from University College London (UCL) in the UK estimate that adding an extra multi-parametric MRI (MP-MRI) scan could help 27 per cent men avoid an unnecessary biopsy and reduce the number of men who are over-diagnosed - diagnosed with a cancer that does not go on to cause any harm during their lifetime - by five per cent.
"Prostate cancer has aggressive and harmless forms. Our current biopsy test can be inaccurate because the tissue samples are taken at random," said Hashim Ahmed from UCL.
"This means it cannot confirm whether a cancer is aggressive or not and can miss aggressive cancers that are actually there.
"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," said Ahmed.
Multi-parametric MRI (MP-MRI) scans provide information about the cancer's size, how densely packed its cells are and how well connected to the bloodstream it is, so could help differentiate between aggressive and harmless cancers.
However, "biopsies will still be needed if an MP-MRI scan shows suspected cancer too, but the scan could help to guide the biopsy so that fewer and better biopsies are taken," Ahmed noted.
In the new study, 576 men with suspected prostate cancer were given an MP-MRI scan followed by two types of biopsy.
Of these, the MP-MRI scan correctly diagnosed almost all of the aggressive cancers (93 per cent), whereas the TRUS biopsy correctly diagnosed only half (48 per cent).
Further, for men who had a negative MP-MRI scan, nine out of 10 (89 per cent) had either no cancer or a harmless cancer.
Typically, men undergo a biopsy of their prostate if they experience symptoms of prostate cancer or have a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test showing high levels of the PSA protein in their blood.
Each year, over 100,000 prostate biopsies are carried out in the UK and one million are conducted in Europe, researchers said.
The study has been published today in The Lancet journal.
(With PTI inputs)