03 Mar 2020
This article is more than 3 years old

mpMRI: progress in improving availability of best scans for diagnosis

New data shows more men are getting access to the best scans for diagnosis, but with demand for testing set to increase, we need to make sure radiology units across the UK get the resources to provide the best possible service.  

Recent data shows there’s been a substantial roll-out of mpMRI scanning across the UK in the last three years. Now, as prostate cancer becomes the most commonly diagnosed cancer in England, and with demand for testing set to increase, we’re asking for radiology units to receive the resources they need to provide the best possible service.  

A multi-parametric Magnetic Resonance Imaging (mpMRI) scan before a prostate cancer biopsy offers an improved ability to detect harmful forms of the disease than biopsy alone. 

In January 2017 results from the PROMIS study, led by researchers at UCL, showed that giving men with suspected prostate cancer a mpMRI scan before a biopsy (when a sample of tissue from the prostate is removed for testing) can hugely improve our ability to detect harmful forms of the disease and can enable some men to avoid unnecessary biopsies. This was the biggest breakthrough in prostate cancer diagnosis for decades, however at the time only 51% of areas across the UK were providing the scans to the standard set by the trial.

Professor Hashim Ahmed, Chair of Urology at Imperial College London, was lead researcher on the PROMIS trial said: “The findings from the PROMIS trial were ground-breaking, and the speed with which our research has been translated in to practice to benefit patients has been incredible. Prostate Cancer UK has done a brilliant job of ensuring NHS decision makers are committed to making this a priority and taking the initiative to understand the challenges and barriers to getting this breakthrough technique to men. 

Heather Blake, Director of Support and Influencing at Prostate Cancer UK said “The last three years have seen an impressively rapid roll out of mpMRI scanning for prostate cancer across the UK. This has been accelerated by commitments from NHS England and the Welsh government to make this diagnostic breakthrough available. Its inclusion in the NICE Guideline recommendations has been pivotal, as has the Scottish Government’s drive to set standards. We’re proud to have been instrumental in highlighting the importance of these scans and developing tools and resources to help health providers make the necessary service transformation.” 

We’re proud to have been instrumental in highlighting the importance of these scans and developing tools and resources to help health providers make the necessary service transformation.
Heather Blake Director Of Support and Influencing

Ray Starr considers his life saved by the accuracy of mpMRI scanning, he said:"Thankfully, my cancer was caught before it had a chance to spread to other parts of my body. But if it wasn’t for the mpMRI, I could have been walking around totally blind to the danger that I was in because my previous biopsy had indicated that there wasn’t a problem."

"It's such brilliant news that things have really moved forward in Wales since my diagnosis, and I'm proud to have played a role in making that happen. These scans are now standard at my local Health Board – Betsi Cadwaladr, and across the health service."

"It's great that in recent years more people are becoming aware of the disease and bringing it up with their doctor. I know that this adds to the pressure the health service is under so it's also important that this is factored in to plans so that men going through a prostate cancer diagnosis in the future don't miss out."

72% of areas across the UK are now providing the scans to the standards set out by NICE guidelines, an increase of 15% on figures we released in 2018. But 1 in 10 eligible men in areas offering the scans still don’t have access because some providers are using restrictions to manage stretched NHS resources. There are also six areas who told us they are not providing the scans to men before biopsy at all. We estimate that 37 dedicated scanners are needed across the UK over the next 10 years at a cost of £49m, and we need many new radiologists to address a shortfall over the next 10 years.

We’ll continue to work with health providers across the UK to ensure they meet these guidelines and help them address any barriers they face so that all men who could benefit can access pre-biopsy mpMRI wherever they live.

All men deserve access to mpMRI scans. You can help make it happen.

Help your local area plan for future provision of mpMRI. Contact your local health decision maker now to share our planning tool so they can calculate the resources needed in your area over the coming years.