Non-invasive prostate cancer scan could lead to national screening
A newly developed, non-invasive and accurate MRI test for prostate cancer could help to revolutionise screening methods for the disease.
A new trial to screen patients for prostate cancer, pioneered by UCL, has the potential to revolutionise prostate cancer diagnosis and may potentially lead to the development of a nationwide screening programme.
Currently, in the U.K, no screening system for prostate cancer is in place on the NHS. This is due to the current method of diagnosing prostate cancer (PSA testing) being too inaccurate for screening the disease effectively.
The present diagnostic criteria for prostate cancer in the UK checks for raised Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) levels within the blood. PSA is a protein created by both normal and malignant cells within the prostate, and typically, men with prostate cancer have higher levels of PSA present in their bloodstream.
However, PSA testing is not accurate enough to be used for nationwide screening. Almost 75 per cent of men who get positive results on the PSA test are found to not have cancer, whilst it misses cancer markers in about 15 per cent of men who do have prostate cancer.
Of the 75 per cent of men who receive false positives on the PSA test, all must undergo an invasive biopsy to check for tumours. This is not a risk-free procedure, which has the possibility to lead to health complications and carries around a 10 per cent rate of missing tumours.
"Previous screening based on PSA blood tests and traditional biopsies have not been shown to be effective enough as a screening tool for implementation across the U.K." UCLH Consultant Prof. Caroline Moore says.
However, this trial, which consists of a ten-minute MRI scan, will test more than 300 men aged between 50 to 75 years old to judge if MRI testing can be used to develop a screening system. Scientists working on the clinical trial claim that it produces a lower rate of false positives and can differentiate between malignant and benign tumours.
“If we can detect cancers earlier and more reliably with a non-invasive test, this could help to improve the survival rates to prostate cancer, which kills about 11,800 men in the UK annually. ” Prof. Mark Emberton, Dean of the Medical Science faculty at UCL states.
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