Men won’t need to have numerous painful needles in their rectum to find out if they have prostate cancer anymore, Australian doctors say.
Urologist Dr Les Thompson and radiographer Dr Rob Parkinson have found a new way to accurately diagnose the cancer without multiple biopsies.
Their world-first study, supported by Queensland’s Wesley Research Institute, used an MRI scanner to detect suspicious cell areas in the prostate.
The doctors then used a crosshair to target the area with a needle which took a tiny tissue sample to be analysed in the lab. The whole process takes about 30 minutes.
Until now, men have required up to 30 random needle biopsies, like stabs in the dark, which were tested to try to locate tumours.
Dr Thompson says the method is both uncomfortable and less accurate, leading to men being over diagnosed.
“There’s been a lot of over-treatment, men have unfortunately suffered the side-effects of those treatments like impotence and incontinence, in retrospect, unnecessarily,” he told reporters.
Dr Parkinson said the new treatment provides information about the size and extent and the aggressiveness of tumours.
“This a big help for urologists in deciding what the best treatment option for the patient is,” he said.
At a cost of about $500, the prostate MRI scan isn’t cheap.
Dr Thompson said he has been campaigning to get it listed as a medicare item like breast screening and mammograms.
But prostate cancer survivor Peter Dornan, who heads the Brisbane Prostate Cancer Support Network, said “blow the money”.
Before the new method, he said, prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment involved castration or countless needle biopsies.
Mr Dornan said the medical, social and emotional costs of having or being misdiagnosed with prostate cancer were high.
“Money is very important, it’s fabulous, but what you have to consider is this will save the psychosocial effects on the person who is now not going to (unnecessarily) be treated for prostate cancer,” Mr Dornan said.
“You save surgeries, radiations, you save the side effects, the interrelation effects, the flow-on effects of prostate cancer that affect the whole family.”
A BRIEF HISTORY OF PROSTATE CANCER DIAGNOSIS:
1950s – Chemical or physical castration is the most common method of dealing with suspected cases of prostate cancer
1980s – Prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests are introduced requiring up to 30 random tissue samples to be taken by needle from the prostate
2014 – MRI imaging pinpoints suspicious cells in the prostate so two accurate samples can be taken by needle.
(Source: Wesley Research Institute and US Library of Medicine)