Even though prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer in men, diagnosing it is often a difficult task. This said, there is a new software being used at some hospitals that may help detect prostate cancer much earlier, extinguishing unnecessary testing and making it easier to create a treatment plan.
This new software, called VividLook, is a program that uses magnetic resonance imaging. This makes test results easier to read and helps doctors pinpoint where a malignancy is located in the prostate.
Dr. Mark Shapiro, chief of radiology at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in N.J., says “It will potentially eliminate the need for biopsies in some men and help guide biopsies in others so we will have a lot less false-negative biopsy results.”
When one is screened for prostate cancer, they undergo a digital rectal exam and then a blood test that measures the level of a protein called prostate specific antigen. Usually a 4 or below is a normal PSA, but patients who have higher levels may be pressed to get a biopsy. There are some drawbacks to getting a biopsy. First of all, they are not always accurate. It is aggravating that many men who go through the procedure, do so needlessly because most patients with an elevated PSA don’t even have prostate cancer. These biopsies are also invasive tests that could cause bleeding and or infection. According to the National Cancer Institute, only 25 to 35 percent of patients with a PSA level between 4 and 9 have the disease. This is why PSA tests frequently come back as false-positives and biopsy results are often false-negative.
VividLook will hopefully help wipe out the need for too many biopsies and help physicians find tumors when they do exist. Before this new software came about, doctors did not do MRIs on the prostate and often took 12 or more tissue samples from all areas of the gland with each procedure. This had to be done because deciphering images from a gland with so many veins and arteries deep inside the pelvic cavity and behind the bladder was almost impossible. Now, with the new software, a specific area can be located on the MRI, and physicians can biopsy that certain area. Shapiro says ” This localizes the tumor or can show there is no tumor at all after getting an elevated PSA.”
In the U.S. alone, almost 218,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, and more than 32,000 succumb to the disease. The good news is that more than 2 million men are now alive who were previously diagnosed with prostate cancer.