A new option to detect prostate cancer.

Urologist doctor discusses prostate cancer diagnosis with patient

What you need to know

The two warning signs of prostate cancer are an elevated PSA (prostate specific antigen) and an abnormal digital rectal exam. When one of these happens, most men choose to have a biopsy, which uses needles to take samples inside the prostate to search for cancer cells.

The problem is that these biopsies don’t always find the parts of the prostate where the cancer could be detected. Traditional biopsies can miss more serious high-grade prostate tumors about 40 percent of the time. Fusion biopsy helps to eliminate these issues with increased accuracy.

Combining MRI and ultrasound for a clearer picture

While traditional biopsies use an ultrasound image to guide the needle, fusion biopsy “fuses” MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) with ultrasound. Most health insurance plans cover fusion biopsy. 

In this method, the patient first has an MRI scan, which a radiologist reviews to mark any irregular areas. Later, the doctor inserts an ultrasound probe in the patient’s rectum to produce ultrasound images. Advanced software overlays the MRI image with the ultrasound view to guide the doctor in inserting needles precisely into suspicious areas. 

Fusion biopsy still misses cancer, but is better than other methods at finding and diagnosing prostate tumors that need treatment. The tumors it misses tend to be the ones that don’t need treatment. Fusion biopsy is an option mostly for men who have had prior negative biopsies or have had small amounts of cancer identified. 

Enhanced precision improves treatment

By using fusion biopsy to better locate the tumor, we can often use treatment methods that cause fewer side effects with sexual function and urinary control. Instead of removing the prostate or radiating the entire organ, doctors can use treatments that precisely target the tumor. 

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