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University Of Alabama Study Shows MRIs Can Reduce Unnecessary Biopsies For Prostate Cancer


“One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime,” notes Dr. Soroush Rais-Bahrami, Associate Professor of Urology and radiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Despite the high rate of this cancer, however, diagnosis can be problematic in that many biopsies are unnecessarily undertaken. A new study by Dr. Rais-Bahrami and associates from other universities have found that a simple MRI can help detect prostate cancer and reduce unnecessary surgery – which is positive news, indeed, considering that this procedure can have many negative side-effects.

Biopsies Have Side Effects

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has noted that around 20% of biopsies for prostate cancer find high-grade cancer. However, around 60% of biopsies come back negative, and around 20% show only low-grade cancer. The USPSTF notes that in 33% of men, biopsies produce issues like pain, fever, bleeding, infection, and temporary urinary difficulties. These side-effects can require a downtime that is long enough to interfere with a patient’s work, social life, etc. Moreover, some pre- and post-surgical treatments are not covered by the patient’s insurance, so surgery can have financial consequences as well. 

How can an MRI Help?

The study undertaken by Dr. Rais-Bahrami and his team found that MRI testing can result in 18 fewer unnecessary prostate biopsies undertaken, for every 100 men. Dr. Rais-Bahrami noted that an MRI can help determine a patient’s risk more accurately, in an aim to come up with a suitable, personalized treatment plan. He also noted that MRIs can help maintain a high rate of diagnosis of high grade cancers, so these can be treated as soon as possible.

Preventive Measures for Prostate Cancer

If you are a male aged 50 or above, it is recommended that you be screened for prostate cancer during your annual physical exam. This normally involves a blood test to test for a biomarker called PSA, as well as a digital rectal exam. During the examination, you can discuss therapies such as testosterone therapy taken to improve libido and mood. A New York University Study has found that this therapy does not increase the risk of prostate cancer in men who are otherwise healthy. Still, you should mention any risk factors for prostate cancer, including having a family history of the disease, and being African-American.

New Strides in Personalizing Prostate Cancer Care

Prostate cancer is generally a slow growing cancer that responds well to treatment. However, in the past, the choice of whether or not to treat cancer with radiation therapy or surgery, was unknown. A team at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has devised an online calculator that can help doctors and patients make the right choice. Speaking to Renal & Urology News, Dr. Rais-Bahrami noted that personalization is key when it comes to selecting a treatment option. In addition to the online calculator, further research is being undertaken to potentially take into account imaging characteristics and genetic studies of specific tumors. There are many factors that can affect a man’s decision regarding which treatment to opt for, including psychological factors, whether or not they have urinary problems, etc.

Many new advances are being made in prostate cancer detection and treatment. The use of MRIs shows great promise in term of reducing unnecessary biopsies and their side-effects. Personalization of treatments suggestions, meanwhile, is growing in importance, with tools such as the new online calculator indicating the many variables that should be taken into account when making such an important decision.

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