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One of the most common issues with old age in men is the enlarged prostate. Any difficulty with urination (no constant stream, difficulty initiating, or incomplete emptying of the bladder for instance), and the first suspect is an enlarged prostate. These symptoms are followed by a digital rectal exam to check for an enlarged prostate. Once confirmed, the next step is to check for levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). If both the exam and the PSA are positive, it could mean prostate cancer. As with any cancer, it is believed that sooner it is diagnosed and the treatment is started, the better.
Historically, the best way to rule out the prostate cancer had been to do a prostate biopsy. This is a minor invasive procedure, wherein biopsies are taken from various regions of the prostate which are known to develop cancer (about 12). A disadvantage of this procedure includes missing out on the front part of the prostate which can also develop cancer. Secondly, it is not a very pleasant experience and given a chance, most men would not want to have it done.
There is good news for these men who would like to avoid prostate biopsies. The first is the multiparametric MRI which uses no x-rays and is considered very safe with extremely accurate results. This MRI exam requires about an hour, and once the images are obtained, the doctor will analyse these images and check for several parameters to assess for prostate cancer. The absence of cancer can be confirmed with up to 90% accuracy, which is far greater than with usual biopsies. If there is a possibility of cancer, then a biopsy can be done to confirm it.
Also, these images indicate the exact region where cancer likely is, and this guides the doctor to biopsy only where absolutely essential. The chances of false positive and false negative results are reduced drastically. The one disadvantage here is that MRI detected biopsies usually tend to be of a higher grade which requires immediate treatment.
Another way to reduce chances of the biopsy by 30% to 50% is by the 4K test. It helps detect a variety of prostate issues including cancer. It can be used once higher levels of PSA is identified and before going for a biopsy. It combined 4 prostate-specific biomarkers with clinical information to accurately provide men with a risk of developing prostate cancer. It can be used even after negative biopsies to confirm the diagnosis of prostate cancer.
These two measures can drastically reduce the incidence of prostate biopsies, which is neither pleasant for the patient nor very effective for the doctor.