Are prostate cancer biopsies reliably accurate?
The most common method, called a systematic biopsy, sometimes misses tumors, and it can also misclassify cancer as being either more or less aggressive than it really is. During systematic biopsy, a doctor takes 12 evenly-spaced samples of the prostate, called cores, while looking at the gland with an ultrasound machine.
A new method, called MRI-targeted biopsy, guides doctors to suspicious abnormalities in the prostate, and emerging evidence suggests that it’s better at detecting high-grade, aggressive tumors that need immediate treatment. These biopsies require doctors to get an MRI of the prostate first. Computer software then fuses the high-resolution MRI scan with ultrasound images gathered in real time during the biopsy procedure. Since doctors only sample from where the MRI reveals possible evidence of cancer, they can take fewer cores.
Some experts are now saying that systematic biopsies should be replaced by the MRI-targeted approach, even though it requires specialized training, and is generally available today only in large academic cancer centers.
However, new evidence suggests that the best way to reduce diagnostic uncertainties is to take both biopsies together. The findings come from a study performed at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.
Investigators enrolled 2,103 men with suspected prostate cancer based on abnormal PSA readings and digital rectal exams. Each was given an MRI-targeted biopsy, followed immediately by a systematic biopsy. Cancer was detected in 1,312 of the men, and 404 of them were surgically treated. The investigators wanted to compare the two biopsy m