The American Cancer Society estimates that about 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. Current biopsy methods involve poking a series of needles (between 12 and 24) into different areas of the gland, guided by ultrasound. The procedure can be uncomfortable and in some cases miss the affected areas altogether, requiring further interventions.
Now, patients have a new screening option available – MR fusion. This approach starts with magnetic resonance imaging of the prostate to reveal any sections that are suspicious of being cancerous. A urology professional then performs an ultrasound, but his image is fused with the previous MRI scan, creating a more detailed and clearer picture.
In the past, doctors relied on PSA tests to determine if a patient needs to undergo a biopsy. Unfortunately, just measuring levels of Prostate-Specific Antigens is not completely reliable, leading some unnecessary procedures.
If the disease is more manageable, doctors would recommend less invasive treatments, called focal therapy, rather than removal of the prostate. These can include cryofreezing or radio frequency oblation, leaving the gland intact. As with any form of surgery, prostate resection presents a number of risks and can result in incontinence or erectile dysfunction.
In recent times, the concept of Active Surveillance has become more prevalent. In many cases, prostate cancers are slow-growing and “lazy”, meaning that managing the disease is generally favorable for patients, rather than local treatment with surgery or radiation. This is important as associated side effects can alter a person’s quality of life in the long run.
Safer and more effective, procedures like these only lead to improved medical care and a better overall patient experience.