High-tech MRI scans are finally being made available to the majority of men with suspected prostate cancer.
In a victory for the Daily Mail, nearly three quarters of NHS trusts now have access to ‘multi-parametric’ MRI machines to diagnose the disease, up from just 50 per cent three years ago.
These tests, which combine three types of MRI scan to produce highly detailed images of the prostate, are far more effective than biopsies, with one study showing they can detect up to 93 per cent of aggressive tumours.
Some 72 per cent of hospitals and health boards now offer mp-MRI scans for prostate cancer, Freedom of Information requests have found.
Nearly three quarters of NHS trusts now have access to ‘multi-parametric’ MRI machines to diagnose the disease, up from just 50 per cent three years ago (stock image)
For two years, the Mail has been campaigning for greater use of MRI scans, after we highlighted the postcode lottery of care in which half of men were denied access to the life-saving tech. The NHS watchdog NICE last year said all men should have access to the scans. Then, trusts began investing in the machines, which cost roughly £1.3million each.
Despite the significant improvement, the data shows some NHS trusts that have the machines are rationing access to manage stretched resources.
One in ten men in areas that have MRI scanners are not benefiting from them, with some trusts not offering scans to older patients. And 4 per cent of trusts still offer no scans, with another 24 per cent offering only the lower-quality ‘bi-parametric’ MRI scans.
Prostate Cancer UK, which collated the figures, calculates another 37 dedicated scanners are needed over the next ten years, at a cost of £49million.
Heather Blake, of Prostate Cancer UK, said: ‘Latest figures show a sharp rise in men referred and subsequently diagnosed in England as they become more aware of their risk.
‘With this trend set to continue, and with some areas still to guarantee access to mp-MRI, it’s vital that radiology departments are supported to meet demand.’
Studies have suggested thousands of lives could be saved from prostate cancer if all men were given MRI scans as soon as suspicions are raised. Using them has been found to increase the number of dangerous tumours identified by almost half. They also slash the number of men subjected to painful biopsies by a quarter.
These tests, which combine three types of MRI scan to produce highly detailed images of the prostate, are far more effective than biopsies (stock image)
These biopsies are also inaccurate, because without a scan samples are taken at random from the prostate. If doctors carry out an MRI scan first, 28 per cent of men can be sent home straight away without needing a biopsy.
And for the remainder of the men, doctors are able to conduct the biopsy with far greater accuracy, using the MRI scan to sample directly from suspicious tissue.
As a result, doctors can diagnose 46 per cent more ‘clinically significant’ cancers – 38 for every 100 men scanned, compared with 26 for every 100 men who have a biopsy alone.
More than 50,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK each year, making it now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the country, but the severity of the disease varies hugely.
Rapid treatment for men with more aggressive forms of the disease is vital, and could be lethal if delayed, with 12,000 men dying each year from it.