Thursday 22 August 2019

New prostate scan to tell men whether they'll develop disease

One-in-eight men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. Stock Image: Getty
One-in-eight men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. Stock Image: Getty

Henry Bodkin

A new one-off prostate cancer test at the age of 55 promises to give men "peace of mind" they will never develop the disease, scientists have revealed.

The 10-minute scan, which could be rolled out in supermarkets and shopping centres, detects dangerous cancers years before they cause any harm, while ignoring growths that do not pose a threat.

Subject to a trial in the UK beginning this summer, the new MRI technique should enable the world's first universal screening programme for prostate cancer.

The disease currently kills more than 3,400 men in Ireland each year. The current screening test for prostate cancer is so unreliable that applying it to symptomless men across the board would do more harm than good.

The prostate-specific antigen blood test is thought to miss around 15pc of cancers, while flagging up many that will never pose a risk.

In contrast, the MRI test, which involves no injection or radiation and does not require a doctor, has been honed to diagnose only cancers that will affect "quantity or quality of life", according to Prof Mark Emberton, from University College London, who is co-leading the project.

He believes 90pc of men who take the test before they reach retirement age can be told with confidence they need never worry about the disease. "Prostate cancer is pretty slow-growing, so if you're prostate comes back looking very clean at 55 or 60, you're probably very unlikely to get prostate cancer," he said.

"What's beautiful about MRI is it overlooks the many, many cancers which don't need to be diagnosed. That's the revolution."

Prof Emberton described the test as "pretty close" to perfect, although he conceded policymakers may opt for screening once a decade out of an abundance of caution.

Results of the scans will be classified on a traffic light basis - green indicating all clear, yellow suggesting a need for further tests, and red meaning an urgent referral to a cancer specialist.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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