Giving men with possible prostate cancer an MRI scan before taking tissue samples could cut the number of biopsies by 50% and reduce the amount of unnecessary treatment by 16%, according to researchers at Radboudumc teaching hospital.
In addition, the researchers say, carrying out a scan first could save €8 million a year from the healthcare bill. Eventually, the scan could point the way to a nationwide screening programme.
Every year, 40,000 men have their blood checked for prostate cancer and 10,000 are diagnosed with the disease.
Under official guidelines, since 2019 men who have a raised PSA value in their blood – which indicates they could have prostate cancer – should be first offered an MRI scan.
However, many hospitals are unaware of the guidelines or have not updated their admittance procedures to reflect them, the researchers say. In addition, the quality of the scans is not up to scratch in all hospitals and there is a shortage of both scanners and technicians.
One solution, the researchers say, would be to set up a national network of prostate scanners, possibly in specialist centres, where radiologists can work.
‘Technological advances are enabling us to discover prostate cancer make care better, faster and more targeted,’ professor Jelle Barentsz said. ‘At the same time, we can reduce pointless and unnecessarily risky treatments and save money.’
Barentsz has also urged the government to set up a national screening programme for prostate cancer, in line with those currently in operation for breast, intestinal and cervical cancer.
The European Union has recommended the Netherlands establish such a programme, which would also include lung and stomach cancer checks, by 2025.
Health minister Ernst Kuipers said there are doubts about the effectiveness of a screening programme and that additional research is needed.
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