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Taking images of the prostate via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology may be the best way to diagnose cancer in this area moving forward, according to new research.
A study carried out by scientists based at University College London Hospitals and published in the Lancet journal has found that using MRI scans to detect signs of the disease is significantly more effective than other testing methods.
Currently, taking a biopsy using up to 12 needles is the usual way that doctors diagnose prostate cancer, but this carries with it other health risks, including serious bleeding, infection and even erectile dysfunction.
In a bid to find an alternative diagnosis method, trials using MRI scans were conducted at 11 UK hospitals, with these initial results revealing that more than one-quarter (27 per cent) of male patients did not need a biopsy at all.
Meanwhile, the scan images gathered by radiologists helped to successfully diagnose 93 per cent of aggressive prostate cancers, as they allowed doctors to focus their biopsies on a specific area.
In contrast, less than half (48 per cent) of aggressive forms of the disease were detected when biopsies were carried out at random relying on guesswork, highlighting the benefits that MRI scans can have on guiding prostate cancer diagnostic methods.
What's more, using MRI scans more regularly to diagnose prostate cancer would create more new opportunities for radiographers and radiologists.
Speaking to BBC News, Dr Hashim Ahmed, one of the researchers working on the study, stated: "This is a significant step change in the way we diagnose prostate cancer. We have to look at the long-term survival, but, in my opinion, by improving the detection of important cancers that are currently missed, we could see a considerable impact. But that will need to be evaluated in future studies, and we may have to wait ten to 15 years."
Written by Megan Smith
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