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Traditional prostate cancer biopsies can miss the disease

Prostate cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in the UK and the most common cancer in men in the UK.

Even if prostate cancer is the most common cancer, it receives less than half of the funding that breast cancer does.

A recent study by The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University College London suggested that too many NHS hospitals are still using traditional biopsy procedures which could lead to the tumor being missed.

Traditionally, prostate tumors have been found through blind biopsies, using an ultrasound through which tissue samples are taken from the entire prostate in the hope of locating a piece of tumor. More than 100,000 of these ‘blind’ biopsies are carried out every year.

The study suggests that biopsy results would be more accurate if a MRI scan is taken first, so that the needle can be guided more precisely ,and tissues taken where the tumor is suspected.

However MRI scanning is expensive, more difficult and time-consuming, but it could also lead to a large reduction in the number of unnecessary prostate biopsies, but also a more accurate diagnosis.

It was calculated that using this alternative procedure, a quarter of patients could get the all-clear without even having to undergo the invasive procedure and avoid unnecessary treatment.

The study found that around 500 of the cases in which significant disease was present, just 50 per cent were detected during the traditional biopsy, compared with 68 per cent detection rates using the MRI-guided technique.

While 1 in 20 of those undergoing the traditional biopsy were wrongly found to have significant disease levels and using the MRI-guided technique, around half as many men were given a wrong diagnosis.

Sarah Willis, a health economist from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, speaking to the Telegraph said: ‘These findings suggest that the use of MRI and ultrasound not only detects far more cases, but leads to fewer false positives, in which significant disease is wrongly diagnosed.’

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