NHS launches 'one-stop' service to slash diagnosis times for prostate cancer


A "one-stop" service to test for prostate cancer is set to cut diagnosis times from six weeks to just a number of days, according to the national health service.

The "world-leading" programme is being trialled by the NHS and will see patients undergo all their tests in one day using a new and more accurate scanning method.

Usually, men have an MRI scan followed by a biopsy, where a dozen samples may have to be taken to try to locate suspect growths on the prostate.

Under the new trial, which is being carried out at three west London hospitals, men will have an MRI scan using cutting-edge technology, get their results and can have any necessary biopsy in one day rather than across multiple hospital visits lasting four to six weeks.

Between a third and 40% of patients who have an "mpMRI" scan, which provides higher quality imagery, will find out on the same day that they do not have prostate cancer and can avoid having a biopsy, NHS England said.

For anyone needing a biopsy, doctors will use ultrasound images with 3D MRI scans to more accurately target suspect areas for taking tissue samples.

The increased precision of the technique also reduces the risk of infection and virtually eliminates the threat of deadly sepsis, the health service said.

  • The prostate is a small gland in the pelvis found only in men, which helps to produce semen
  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK
  • There are 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year
  • It has overtaken breast cancer to become the third biggest cancer killer in the UK
  • Many people live for years without showing symptoms or needing treatment

Professor Hashim Ahmed, chairman of urology at Imperial College London, said: "Fast access to high-quality prostate MRI allows many men to avoid invasive biopsies as well as allowing precision biopsy in those men requiring it to find high risk tumours much earlier."

Prostate cancer recently hit the news after research showed it had overtaken breast cancer to become the third biggest cancer killer in the UK, and actor and writer Stephen Fry revealed he was diagnosed with the disease.

It is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with more than 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year and around 11,000 men now dying from it in the UK every year.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: "This is an encouraging breakthrough in prostate cancer diagnosis that is genuinely world-leading. While still early days, the potential benefit to men with suspected cancer is significant."

The new approach is being piloted at Charing Cross Hospital, Epsom Hospital and Queen Mary's Hospital in Roehampton, with about 5,000 men to be tested over the next two years.