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Prostate Cancer Patient Case Study

Put yourself in the doctor's chair with this case study of prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment.


The Case: Patient John Doe has had a rising prostate-specific antigen (commonly known as PSA) score for over 10 years and has undergone multiple standard systematic ultrasound biopsies. Over the same 10-year period, John has had six different screenings--four at my office, one at Stanford University, and one at the University of California at San Francisco--all negative for prostate cancer. This year, his PSA score reached an alarming 14 (scores below 4 are considered the normal range). In January, 2015, he had a multiparametric MRI, which revealed a highly suspicious area in his prostate, which was missed on all the previous biopsies. He then had a MRI-ultrasound fusion guided targeted biopsy of the suspicious spot, and high grade, aggressive prostate cancer (Gleason 8) was finally diagnosed. Fortunately, the cancer still seems to be confined to the prostate and he has been offered treatment with curative intent: either radiation therapy with Calypso or surgery to remove the prostate.

Without proper diagnosis, this case study could have had a much different outcome for patient John Doe. Prostate cancer is the commonest cancer in men, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men. Prostate cancer is curable if caught early enough, before it spreads out of the prostate. Therefore, finding prostate cancer early is imperative. Unfortunately, there are usually no symptoms of prostate cancer at its earliest and most curable stages. Doctors have relied on 2 tests, the PSA blood test, and a digital rectal exam, to determine if a prostate biopsy is indicated. Neither test is 100% accurate, even when used in combination. If either test is abnormal, traditionally men have undergone "systematic ultrasound-guided" prostate biopsies. Unfortunately, as in John Doe's case, the systematic biopsy technique, where 12 random biopsies are taken, often misses the cancer.

Multiparametric MRI is a new technique that has proven to be very accurate in identifying prostate cancer, often in places which were not traditionally encompassed in the "systematic biopsy" technique. A prostate biopsy is still necessary to establish a definite diagnosis. However, performing the biopsy in the MRI machine itself is not possible. The multiparametric-MRI ultrasound fusion is a new technique, where the MRI images are transferred to an ultrasound machine. Then, a real time prostate ultrasound is fused with the MRI image, which allows accurate targeted biopsies of the suspicious areas to be obtained. Multiparametric-MRI in conjunction with MRI-ultrasound fusion guided targeted biopsy offers the promise of more accurate and timely diagnosis of prostate cancer. It is especially helpful in the following situations:

  • Men with previously negative prostate biopsies, continued rising PSA, presence of a prostate nodule on digital rectal exam, or a very high PSA.
  • Men on “Active Surveillance” for “low risk” prostate cancer, where treatment is deferred until “high risk” features are identified.

Truly, MRI-ultrasound fusion guided targeted prostate biopsy is a “game changer” for the early and accurate diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Dr. Stephen Taylor is a Urologist with Pacific Urology. He specializes in robotic urologic surgeries and prostate, kidney and bladder cancers. For more information please call 925-937-7740 or visit www.PacificUrology.com

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