Imperial College London: Ultrasound scan can diagnose prostate cancer

Researchers at Imperial College London, University College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust have found that a new type of ultrasound scan can diagnose most prostate cancer cases with good accuracy in a clinical trial involving 370 men.

The ultrasound scans missed only 4.3 per cent more clinically important prostate cancer cases – cancer that should be treated rather than monitored – compared to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans currently used to detect prostate cancer.

MRI scans are expensive and time-consuming. The team believes that an ultrasound scan should be used as a first test in a community healthcare setting and in low and middle income countries which do not have easy access to high quality MRI scans. They say it could be used in combination with current MRI scans to maximise cancer detection. The study is published in Lancet Oncology.

As cancer waiting lists build as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a real need to find more efficient and cheaper tests to diagnose prostate cancer.
Professor Hashim Ahmed
lead author of the study and Chair of Urology at Imperial College London
Professor Hashim Ahmed, lead author of the study and Chair of Urology at Imperial College London, said:

“Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK. One in six men will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetimes and that figure is expected to rise.

“MRI scans are one of the tests we use to diagnose prostate cancer. Although effective these scans are expensive, take up to 40 minutes to perform and are not easily available to all. Also, there are some patients who are unable to have MRI scans such as those with hip replacements or claustrophobia fears. As cancer waiting lists build as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a real need to find more efficient and cheaper tests to diagnose prostate cancer.

“Our study is the first to show that a special type of ultrasound scan can be used as a potential test to detect clinically significant cases of prostate cancer. The can detect most cases of prostate cancer with good accuracy, although MRI scans are slightly better.

“We believe that this test can be used in low and middle income settings where access to expensive MRI equipment is difficult and cases of prostate cancer are growing.”

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