According to research, the UK may finally be in a position to roll out a prostate cancer screening program. The potential benefits of widespread screening are substantial, including a 20% reduction in prostate cancer deaths. However, past attempts at national rollout were hampered by concerns that the drawbacks outweighed the benefits.
The primary obstacle to implementing a screening program has been the lack of accuracy of the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test, which is currently the first diagnostic step. The test alone cannot provide a definitive diagnosis of prostate cancer, requiring additional testing such as a biopsy to confirm the presence of the disease.
The rollout of safe screening for early detection is pivotal to helping improve diagnosis rates and boosting survival rates. Here, we look at the current testing methods for prostate cancer.
Safer screening for prostate cancer
The screening process for prostate cancer currently involves undergoing a PSA test, followed by other tests.
Until recently, a biopsy would be organised next, without an MRI. As the PSA test isn’t overly accurate, this meant men were sometimes sent for unnecessary biopsies.
Biopsies are known for their risk of infection, and they can also be painful for patients. Conversely, some men may also be diagnosed with the disease and given aggressive treatments, even though their type of prostate cancer is not likely to cause them harm during their lifetime.
Now, new MRI scans, called multiparametric MRI scans (mpMRI) and safer biopsies (transperineal guided biopsies) can give men a more accurate and less harmful diagnosis of prostate cancer.
The advantage of an MRI scan before a biopsy
If a prostate cancer screening is advised, this begins with a simple PSA blood test carried out here at the Wessex Private GP. If your test shows the PSA is a higher level than expected, then you may be referred for Whole-Body MRI scanning.
MRI scanning provides a detailed image of your entire body and can detect the presence of tumours and other abnormalities. If the scan shows any abnormalities, then you may need a biopsy.
The main benefits of having an MRI scan before a biopsy are:
- it provides an accurate indication of the presence of prostate cancer
- if nothing shows – a biopsy will be avoided along with possible side effects
- if you do need a biopsy, it will inform the specific areas to target
- if nothing shows – you will avoid unnecessary treatment with possible side effects
Our prostate cancer screening service
If you are concerned about symptoms of prostate cancer, or your risk of getting the disease, it is important to discuss it with your GP. During your appointment at the Wessex Private GP, Dr Charlie Middle will discuss your medical history and your risk of prostate cancer. He can then carry out a physical prostate exam and a urine test if necessary. You can then discuss the suitability of a PSA test.
If you are concerned about your prostate cancer risk, book an appointment with Dr Charlie Middle at the Wessex Private GP today.