How is an MRI used to Detect Prostate Cancer?

An MRI scan is one of the imaging tests your doctor may order to help diagnose prostate cancer. They may also use it to decide the best treatment. The scan uses radio waves and strong magnets to craft detailed images of soft tissues in the body. It is a non-invasive test and is considered safe for most patients.

There are several reasons your doctor may order an MRI. If you have high levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-a possible sign of prostate cancer-your doctor may use a special MRI known as multiparametric MRI.

This can help decide if you need a biopsy and, in the cases when a biopsy is needed, to make the biopsy more accurate.

Once your doctor reviews the MRI and if she/he decides to do a biopsy, a so-called MRI/ultrasound fusion targeted biopsy is then performed.

During this procedure, doctors use special software to overlay MRI images on top of the live ultrasound images that are used to guide prostate biopsies during the procedure. This can help make biopsies more accurate.

This is key, because many cancers can be seen on MRI, but not on the ultrasound images.

Dr. Alexander Kutikov is chief of the Division of Urologic Oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.