alec stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

Combining a traditional 12-point biopsy with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) improves the accuracy of prostate cancer diagnosis, according to findings from a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) study published in the New England Journal of Medicine

Prostate cancer is a pervasive diagnosis, affecting more than 175,000 men every year in the United States. The systems by which providers diagnose the disease are not always accurate, relying on a 12-point biopsy test that examines multiple areas of the gland for tumor details. Although the traditional test has been effective, it doesn’t always provide an accurate picture for healthcare providers, leading to potential over- or underdiagnoses.

Using the results from 2,103 men who were tested using both the 12-point biopsy and the MRI-targeted biopsy in a single visit, researchers compared diagnoses from each approach individually as well as the combined testing method. They found that the combined test identified 208 cancers that the standard 12-point biopsy would’ve missed. Using the MRI-targeted biopsy also helped providers identify which cancers were aggressive and needed immediate treatment.

“In NIH researchers and their colleagues recently found that combining the 12-point biopsy with MRI-targeted biopsy during the same session more accurately diagnoses prostate cancer than either technique alone.” NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, said in his blog that detailed the study. “The findings address a long-standing challenge in prostate cancer diagnostics: performing a thorough prostate biopsy to allow a pathologist to characterize as accurately as possible the behavior of a tumor. Some prostate tumors are small, slow growing, and can be monitored closely without treatment. Other tumors are aggressive and can grow rapidly, requiring immediate intervention with hormonal therapy, radiation, or surgery.”

A 2015 study published in JAMA highlighted similar findings, identifying that MRI-targeted biopsies were associated with increased high-risk prostate cancer detection and decreased identification of low-risk cancers.

Screening and early detection are crucial to successful outcomes for patients with cancer. Oncology nurses must connect patients and caregivers with helpful resources and screening guidelines to keep them safe and vigilant.