1 in 4 men who get the all clear from a biopsy actually have significant prostate cancer

When facing a cancer diagnosis, we would all want a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ so we understand what’s ahead of us. But when it comes to diagnosing prostate cancer, results are rarely that conclusive. Inaccurate diagnostic tests mean many men are faced with a ‘maybe’ or, worse still, are wrongly told they are cancer-free. A gift from you today can help us change this.

A better test is urgently needed

The current test for prostate cancer is called a TRUS (trans-rectal ultrasound) guided biopsy, where different parts of the prostate are sampled at random. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that cancerous cells will be sampled, and many men’s cancer is missed this way.

As with other cancers, the sooner it is diagnosed, the better the prognosis for treatment and survival. The terrible consequence of poor diagnosis is that cancer is found later, often once it has spread to the bone, at which point it may no longer be possible to cure it. Ultimately, men lose their lives needlessly.

...and scientists may just have found one

New research, which should publish soon, offers men the chance of a more accurate diagnosis by scanning their prostate using multi-parametric MRI (mpMRI) before they have a TRUS guided biopsy. The multiple images taken by the mpMRI scanner can show if there is clinically significant cancer in the prostate – in other words, fast-growing cancer that needs treatment to stop it spreading. What’s more, the scan images can be used to target the biopsy, if they go on to have one. Those men with nothing suspicious on their scans can avoid having a biopsy, and can therefore avoid any unnecessary side effects of having a biopsy.

Help make this breakthrough a reality

We want mpMRI before biopsy to be available to all men. That’s why we’re working hard to make sure the equipment needed is in place. To do that, we will use our survey of MRI departments across the UK to tell the NHS where new scanners are needed.

What’s more, and because mpMRI before biopsy is a complex technique, you can help to make sure we can run a training programme for radiologists across the UK, giving them the confidence to interpret the scans and correctly rule the right men out of having a biopsy.

Your support will also help us develop standards for mpMRI before biopsy so that no matter where in the UK a man is scanned, he receives best practice.

mpMRI has the potential to change the way we diagnose prostate cancer and save lives. This is the best chance we’ve had to improve prostate cancer diagnosis in 30 years, but we can’t take it alone. We need your support to help make this breakthrough a reality.

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What is mpMRI?

An mpMRI scan is a special type of scan that creates a more detailed picture of your prostate than a standard MRI. While a standard MRI scan isn’t clear enough to accurately detect early prostate cancer, mpMRI provides a much clearer picture of what’s going on inside the prostate. It does this by combining up to three different types of scan.

Exposing clinically significant cancers

Thanks to the latest research, we now know that an mpMRI scan can show whether there is anything unusual in the prostate, or the area around it, that might be cancer. It does this with a high degree of accuracy, and in a far less invasive way than a TRUS guided biopsy. If there’s anything unusual on the scan, men will be offered a biopsy to find out whether they have cancer.

Importantly, an mpMRI scan is less likely than a TRUS guided biopsy to pick up a clinically insignificant cancer that probably wouldn’t cause any problems in a man’s lifetime. It usually only picks up those areas of cancer that do need treating. So if your scan is clear, it’s likely you won’t need to have a biopsy.

Cancers that would have been missed by TRUS biopsy could be caught earlier

By revealing areas of the prostate that might contain cancer, mpMRI could allow biopsies to be targeted to those areas, and stop cancer being missed. The fantastic news is that this means men’s lives can potentially be saved. It’s an incredible opportunity, but now we need to put the skills and equipment in place to help this research become a reality.

As we work to ensure all men have access to the best diagnostics, your support really is vital.

John's story

When John was told he might have prostate cancer, he was confident the blind biopsy would confirm it. So when the consultant told him no cancer had been found, he was incredibly relieved.

John's story biopsy

But 18 months later, as signs of cancer progressed, he returned for a second biopsy. And this time, cancerous cells were found.

After waiting so long for a diagnosis, I worried I’d missed my chance to have the treatment I wanted – and needed.

- John


Thankfully, treatment saved John’s life, but every year, thousands of men aren’t so lucky. Delayed diagnosis means their cancer spreads beyond the treatable phase and, tragically, they lose their lives.

Make a donation and help lay the groundwork for a life-saving breakthrough