Study: MRI use could enhance prostate cancer care

MRI screening may be quite useful in managing prostate cancer patients and preventing overtreatment in the process. For patients with low-risk prostate cancer, researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York conclude that using the endorectal MRI screening helps to better determine which patients can get by on active surveillance, and which need more aggressive intervention.

The scientists evaluated 388 patients who had an initial prostate biopsy between 1999 and 2010 and had an initial Gleason score (a measurement of how aggressive the prostate cancer is) of 6 or under. All had a biopsy to conform the initial assessment no later than 6 months after diagnosis, and patients each had an endorectal MRI between their initial and confirmatory biopsies.

After the confirmatory biopsy, the researchers found that patients with higher MRI scores (above 2) were more likely to have their disease upgraded after a confirmatory biopsy. Lower scores suggested the cancer remained low risk and that active surveillance would be a better option. The researchers say that they can greatly impact prostate cancer care knowing now that clearly visualizing a tumor on an MRI could predict whether a cancer's status required an upgrade.

A more minute diagnostic process could help reduce healthcare costs and improve patient care in the long run. As the researchers explain, active surveillance for a tumor that is low-grade helps maintain patient safety and can immediately target any change in status. Prostate cancer treatment can create plenty of side effects, including incontinence and erectile dysfunction, among other problems. MRI usage might be costly in and of itself, but perhaps its use as a preemptive diagnostic tool in this case balances that out. After all, why use a more drastic, invasive treatment that creates more longer-term healthcare costs if preemptive monitoring can at least delay that course of action until it is absolutely necessary?

For details about the research, read The Journal of Urology.

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