Why We Over Diagnose
So what can be done? Physician propensity for overtreatment will only change slowly. The shortest pathway out of this dilemma is to stop diagnosing so much low-grade disease. The crux of the problem is the random needle biopsy, a “blind” procedure that is widely considered to be the necessary first step for evaluating elevated PSA. A million men undergo biopsy annually; 250,000 men are diagnosed; around a 100,000 have low-grade disease the can be safely monitored with “active surveillance.”
The Next Evolutionary Step
Three-Tesla multiparametric MRI (MP-MRI) scans developed by Siemens, Philips and GE can reliably detect high-grade disease without over diagnosing low-grade disease; these scanners accurately differentiate high-grade from low-grade tumors. The availability of these new scanners makes random biopsy as currently utilized by most urologists archaic. Random biopsy involves inserting 12 needles into the rectum. Beyond its propensity for over-diagnosis, 3% of men are hospitalized with serious infections. Also, it is relatively inaccurate, failing to detect high grade disease over 15% of the time.
New Technology Growing Pains
Most internists and urologists are still unaware of these important technological advances. Even those who are aware are still learning how to translate these new imaging reports into practical recommendations for their patients. Also, there is the challenge of maintaining quality control in this rapidly expanding world. Despite these barriers the advantages of using imaging as a first step can’t be ignored. We have posted a list of centers that perform this type of imaging. While we have some familiarity with these centers, for liability reasons we are unable to offer any official certification of their quality and accuracy. On the other hand, new as this technology is, we feel it would be a disservice not to spread the word about its availability. We are raising awareness about prostate cancer imaging
Posted on Prostate Snatchers: The Blog by Prostate Oncology Specialists