Harvard Perspectives on Prostate Disease

Improved magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may aid detection of prostate cancer

An interview with Neil M. Rofsky, M.D., who helped develop the new technology

Until recently, most professionals have been skeptical that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) could be used on a widespread basis to diagnose or stage prostate cancer with any degree of reliability, and therefore help with making treatment decisions. One analysis of scientific literature published from 1984 to 2000 found that MRI was able to predict the stage of prostate cancer accurately anywhere from 50% to 92% of the time, depending on the facility and the skill of the radiologist. In other words, MRI staging was sometimes no better than a coin toss (see "Reason for skepticism"). Actual detection of tumors also depended largely on the skill and experience of the radiologist, and whether or not an endorectal coil was used to make the image clearer.

Reason for skepticism

American Urological Association. Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Best Practice Policy. Oncology 2000;14:267–72. PMID: 10736812.

Engelbrecht MR, Jager GJ, Laheij RJ, et al. Local Staging of Prostate Cancer Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging: A Meta-Analysis. European Radiology 2002;12:2294–302. PMID: 12195484.

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