In the past, men over the age of 55, especially those with elevated PSAs–a blood marker for prostate cancer–would have to rely on a combination of blood tests and biopsies to monitor for early or recurrent signs of prostate cancer. But St. Luke’s University Health Network patients now benefit from a multi-parametric MRI, which gives physicians detailed anatomical and functional information about the prostate, including location, size, shape of any tumors and whether or not the cancer has spread outside the walls of the prostate.
“Prostate cancer is not only the most common cancer in men, it’s also highly curable when detected early,” explains Zachariah Goldsmith, MD, PhD, urologist, St. Luke’s Center for Urology. “In fact, it’s one of the most curable internal cancers, but it’s also asymptomatic so screening is our best chance of detection and cure. This MRI technology provides doctors with detailed, state-of- the-art prostate imaging to diagnose and manage prostate cancer to ensure the best possible outcome.”
The multi-parametric MRI helps to evaluate and follow men who have normal biopsies but elevated PSAs, and those who have low-grade, slow-growing prostate cancer that is commonly treated through active surveillance.
“In some prostate cancer cases, men do not need to undergo treatment because they have a slower growing tumor that could be treated conservatively,” says Dr. Goldsmith. “This multiparametric MRI is an integral part of that active surveillance. With the information we can gather from the MRI, we can cater treatment to specific cases and give each patient individualized care.”
Before this technology became available, doctors did not have the accuracy to image the inside of the prostate. Researchers have experimented with MRI of the prostate since the 1980s, but recent technological advancements and the development of specific imaging techniques have allowed MRI to emerge as the gold standard to effectively visualize the prostate gland, aiding in prostate cancer surveillance and detection.
“MRI of the prostate has now evolved to a point where it is significantly improved in its ability to detect and help stratify risk for underlying prostate cancer,” says Laurie Sebastiano, MD, St. Luke’s diagnostic radiologist. “It now plays an important role in management of patients on active surveillance who are at increased risk for prostate cancer.”
In addition to detecting small, but clinically significant prostate cancer that may otherwise go undetected, another benefit is that the new MRI reduces the frequency of prostate biopsies.
The multi-parametric MRI is administered in the same way as a traditional MRI. It is currently available at St. Luke’s advanced MRI units, including those at Bethlehem, Anderson, Monroe and Warren campuses.
Dr. Goldsmith re-emphasizes that because prostate cancer is asymptomatic, screening is critical.
“Screening via blood test and rectal exams should start at age 55 and much sooner if the patient has risk factors like family history or if the patient is of African descent,” says Dr. Goldsmith. “And because of the sophisticated imaging we can get with the multi-parametric MRI we can make treatment even more customizable, fitting the patient’s specific case and situation.”
Note: This story was contributed by St. Luke’s University Health Network. Its publication is part of a local health news partnership between Saucon Source and SLUHN.