Toronto oncologist plans study to test which prostate cancer screening is better
A new study will be conducted in Toronto to test if an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is more effective at finding prostate cancer than a PSA blood level test.
Jerry Howarth, the voice behind the Toronto Blue Jays announcements for 35 years, is supporting the study after his own experience with prostate cancer.
Five years ago, the sports announcer, had high PSA levels, but a biopsy failed to find any cancer.
Then earlier this year he was referred to Dr. Robert Nam, a urologic-oncologist at Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Centre, who sent Howarth for an MRI.
The MRI revealed what the biopsy did not: that Howarth had a small tumour, which he is having removed next week.
Dr. Nam explained to CTV Toronto that MRIs can often catch cancers where biopsies fail because biopsies have a number of weaknesses.
For example, a biopsy might not be able to locate the tumour and even if they do, the biopsy can’t distinguish what type of tumour it is. Additionally, biopsies can also be a source of infections.
In contrast, MRIs are less invasive and can help identify aggressive tumours.
In 2014, the government recommended against using PSA testing as a form of screening for prostate cancer because it’s not very reliable or accurate. However, according to Nam, this has led to an increase in the number of patients presenting with advanced stage cancer.
In response, he decided to start a study to see which method would be better at catching cancer and which would be more cost-effective.
While MRI machines are costly to use and not widely available in Canada, Dr. Nam told CTV Toronto: “think of all the savings we would get by avoiding unnecessary biopsies and unnecessary treatment.”
He has started recruiting 1,000 men who haven’t had a PSA test in the last three years to participate in the study. In the study, half will be given a PSA test while the other half will be given a MRI.
The study is set to be completed in 2020.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Pauline Chan