New international agreement on MRI scans could change cancer diagnosis

Thursday 8th October 2015
A new standard has been agreed that changes how doctors use imaging techniques to diagnose prostate cancer. Image Credit: semakokal
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A new standard has been agreed by leading international bodies to try and reduce the large number of insignificant cancers.

The experts have changed how doctors evaluate MRI scans to confirm a diagnosis of prostate cancer. It is hoped that the new method will reduce the number of over diagnoses of insignificant cancers by up to 89 per cent.

Published in the peer-reviewed journal European Urology, the new procedure will also make it up to 13 per cent easier to identify life-threatening tumours, compared to current methods.

This could have a significant impact as prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with an incidence rate of 214 cases per 1,000 men across Europe.

Recently, the introduction of new MRI scans has helped improve prostate cancer diagnosis, thanks to a technique called multiparametric prostate Magnetic Resonance Imaging (mpMRI). 

For years, experts have been developing and refining MpMRI, but acquiring good images isn't the only problem when it comes to identifying prostate cancer. 

Guidelines, which were first released in December 2014, have now been revised and updated.

Professor Jelle Barentsz from the Radboud University Medical Centre, one of the study's lead author, said early results have shown that mpMRI is an enormous help in detecting significant cancers. 

However, he said to allow more widespread use, there needed to be standardisation of image acquisition and interpretation. 

The new protocols could bring "real benefits" to many patients, Professor Barentsz added.

In clinical trials, an early version of the Prostate Imaging and Reporting and Data System (PI-RADS) has improved the diagnosis of intermediate to high-grade cancers. An updated version - called PI-RADS version 2 - makes it simpler to get mpMRI scans and increases how well they are interpreted, and reported.

Professor Barentsz said: "This work means we will see increasing use of good-quality MRI scans in prostate diagnosis. These MRI scanners are big expensive beasts, but in fact we have also found that, when you consider the savings made by reducing unnecessary treatment, that mpMRI is cost-effective."

Written by Angela Newbury

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