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Painful biopsies for prostate cancer failing to spot growth

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 10th, 2014
Catholic Online (

It's a case of the cure being almost as bad as the disease. Millions of men are subjected to painful, humiliating biopsies in order to screen for prostate cancer. A top doctor now warns that these methods are outdated and dangerous - and above all else, fail to detect the disease.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Professor Mark Emberton, who is carrying out a trial of MRI and prostate cancer at University College London, says male patients should be given an MRI scan that can either rule the disease out, or give an accurate location of the cancer cells.

The chief concern is that many patients get a negative result -- even though they do in fact have the disease.

Invite the intercession of St. Peregrine, the healing patron saint of cancer patients here.

Therefore, doctors are required to ask the men back to repeat the painful biopsies to ensure they haven't missed the cancer. Some men live up to ten years with the disease before getting an accurate scan.

New guidelines advise doctors to use an MRI scan after one negative biopsy, marking the first time the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has recommended them in the place of biopsies.

Emberton says the new guidelines don't go far enough. "We should be using MRI before doing a biopsy and men with suspected prostate cancer should ask their specialists why they are not having it first," he says.

Most men undergo investigations to diagnose the disease after a PSA blood test measures levels of prostate, specific antigen, a protein produced by the prostate. Higher levels make cancer more likely but these can be caused by a common non-cancerous condition, such as benign enlargement.

Out-dated biopsy procedures are subjecting thousands of men each year to the risks of infection, with one in 30 needing hospital treatment for sepsis, Emberton says. He says that he has seen one man who had had five biopsies, all of which were inaccurate and failed to find cancerous cells which later showed up on an MRI scan.

"This is just one example of how biopsies to diagnose cancer often get it wrong but there are six studies showing MRI gets it right."

A needle biopsy usually takes a sample of cells from the prostate usually via the back passage. This "hit and miss approach" often fails to find the target or picks up slow-growing cancer cells, Emberton says. He said an MRI can establish with 95 percent accuracy when a man has not got prostate cancer.

Furthermore, scans are far more inexpensive than a biopsy.

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