A man reads a British newspaper with interest

MRI Prostate Cancer Screening: A Replacement for the PSA?

According to a recent article in the Science section of the British newspaper, “The Telegraph,” British scientists are developing an MRI test that “detects dangerous cancers years before they cause any harm while ignoring growths that do not pose a threat.” The ten minute scan “could be rolled out in supermarkets and shopping centers.”1

What does the research say?

The research is supported by the National Health Service and Prostate Cancer UK. A doctor is not required, and the test “has been honed to diagnose only cancers which will affect ‘quantity and quality of life,’ according to Professor Mark Emberton, from University College London, who is co-leading the project.” More than 11,600 men in the UK die from prostate cancer each year. The new MRI is being compared to the mammogram for women to detect breast cancer.1

While I’m not versed in all the new and constantly changing technology that accompanies detection and treatment of prostate cancer, I know that MRIs and MRI guided biopsies have helped doctors gather more reliable data about a patient’s potential prostate cancer and its aggressiveness. So it makes sense that an MRI could be developed as a screening device that could eventually replace the PSA test and give more accurate results.

The British researchers believe that “90 percent of men who take the test before they reach retirement age can be told with the confidence they need never worry about the disease. If your prostate comes back looking very clean at 55, 60, you’re probably very unlikely to get prostate cancer.”

Reflecting back on my personal journey

I first started getting PSA tests in 2007 when I was seeing a urologist after a kidney stone attack. I was fifty-eight at the time. When everything settled down, I stopped seeing the urologist and my primary care doctor did not require me to have a PSA test for my physicals, although a DRE was administered and there were never any concerns.

For a few years after my primary care doctor retired, I did not have a physical. When I finally decided to have a physical late in 2016, a PSA was required, and that began my personal journey with prostate cancer, which resulted in a laparoscopic prostatectomy in 2018.

It's time to raise public awareness about prostate cancer screening

The rising public interest and concern about prostate cancer will make it easier and less stigmatizing for men to have regular screenings and talk openly about the disease. Major League Baseball recently dedicated a day to prostate cancer awareness. Billionaire Michael Milken, although infamous for financial fraud in the 80’s, has long dedicated his energy, influence, and money to the fight against prostate cancer through his Prostate Cancer Foundation.

A better future for my sons

I have three adult sons, the oldest of whom will be forty next year. As far as I know, I’m the first person in my family history to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, but I don’t want my sons to take any risks with the disease. I’ll be insisting that they include PSA tests with health checkups. And when the time comes that the new MRI screening is proven to be effective and is available, I hope they’ll take advantage of it as a way of relieving them and their families of concern about a future that might include prostate cancer. I want my experience to benefit them.

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