In a move to reduce unnecessary surgery, MRI scans to help diagnose prostate cancer sooner have been approved on the NHS.

The move benefits thousands of men who face multiple hospital trips and invasive biopsies on the current system to help detect signs of prostate cancer. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has ruled that men must be offered an MRI as the first port of call which "could allow up to 40 per cent of men who need a diagnosis to avoid a biopsy.”

What is an MRI?

MRI is an advanced method to give detailed images of the body’s internal structure. It is one of the most advanced imaging techniques used to date and is suitable for every part of your body. MRI uses a very strong magnetic field which allows doctors to see inside your body in a way previously only possible through surgery.

The procedure is painless and one of the safest diagnostic imaging methods available with no known risks or side effects, and an early diagnosis can be one of the best forms of treatment.

The multi-parametric MRIs (mpMRIs) offered by Vista Health combine up to three different types of scan to provide high quality imaging of the prostate. The images are also enhanced by the injection of a dye, which makes for a clearer, more accurate diagnosis.

A Potential Breakthrough

The encouraging breakthrough gives thousands of men the opportunity to "avoid invasive biopsies as well as allowing precision biopsy in those men requiring it to find high risk tumours much earlier”, according to Imperial College London chairman of urology Professor Hashim Ahmed.

“What we are hoping to do is show the NHS that this can be done, that it can be done cost-effectively and that we can improve the outcomes for men in a much better way than we were doing.”

According to Prostate Cancer UK the benefits of an mpMRI are clear, as they:

  • Are significantly better at identifying clinically significant prostate cancer compared to TRUS (trans-rectal ultrasound) biopsy
  • Will reduce the number of men having biopsies unnecessarily by a quarter (27%) because the scan will only pick up cancers which could cause men harm and need further tests
  • Can help improve the accuracy when taking biopsy samples, targeting directly any suspicious areas seen on the MRI.

The draft guidelines from NICE will likely result in a green light for the service in early 2019.

NICE's centre for guidelines director, Paul Chrisp thinks the “diagnostic pathway will hopefully improve survival, reduce unnecessary surgery and benefit both patients and the NHS in the long term."

While still in the early stages of development, the decision is an encouraging breakthrough for the NHS to provide world-leading cancer diagnosis, give a cost-effective alternative to invasive biopsies and improve the outcomes for thousands of men across the UK.

Vista Health scanning centres are located throughout the UK, offering patients access to private mri scans at their convenience.

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