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Physicians with the UC San Diego Health System are starting to use MRIs – magnetic resonance imaging – to get a better look at areas of the prostate that traditional ultrasounds cannot see.

Dr. J. Kellogg Parsons, of the UCSD Moores Cancer Center, said Tuesday that an ultrasound machine provides an imperfect view of the prostate, resulting in an under-diagnosis of cancer.

“With an ultrasound exam, we are typically unable to see the most suspicious areas of the prostate so we end up sampling different parts of the prostate that statistically speaking are more likely to have cancer,” said Parsons, a urologic oncologist who is also an associate professor in the Department of Urology at the UCSD School of Medicine.

MRI are increasingly part of treatment to fight against prostate cancer. Photo credit: UC San Diego Health System, via YouTube.
MRI are increasingly part of treatment to fight against prostate cancer. Photo credit: UC San Diego Health System, via YouTube.

“The MRI is a game-changer,” he said of the technology now being used in the San Diego region for prostate treatment. “It allows us to target the biopsy needles exactly where we think the cancer is located. It’s more precise.”

Parsons said he combines the MRI with real-time, ultrasound images, resulting in what he calls a three-dimensional road map of the prostate.

“The MRI-guided prostate biopsy will enhance the patient experience by reducing the number of false-positive biopsies and resulting in earlier diagnosis when cancer is present,” Parsons said.

A man who had been given a clean bill of health following an ultrasound test went back to his doctors after a rise in his prostate-specific antigen levels, known as PSA levels. The protein is often elevated in men with prostate cancer.

Armondo Lopez was given an MRI-guided prostate biopsy by Parsons, who found an aggressive but treatable, early-stage tumor in an area that wouldn’t have been seen by an ultrasound.

“Life is going on as normal,” Lopez said. “This is the wave of the future. I see this new technology as the way to save thousands of lives.”

He said he looks forward to celebrating his 58th wedding anniversary soon.

According to UCSD Health, an early diagnosis typically improves a patient’s prognosis. Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men in the U.S., with more than 29,000 fatalities expected this year.

The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 66.

– City News Service

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