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Research into diagnosing prostate cancer

Before new tests can be introduced they need to be tested thoroughly. This is so we can be sure that they work and that they are safe. 


MRI scan 

There’s early research looking at whether using a type of MRI (mpMRI) scan to screen for prostate cancer is possible.

A multiparametric MRI is a special type of MRI scan. This type of MRI produces a more detailed picture of your prostate gland than a standard MRI scan does

PCA3 urine test

The PCA3 test is a urine test. Its stands for Prostate CAncer gene 3. Researchers have been looking at whether they can use this test to diagnose prostate cancer.

While some trial results have been promising, some of the trials have produced different results. So it is still uncertain whether the PCA3 test can help to diagnose prostate cancer.

The PCA3 test was assessed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in 2015. NICE don’t recommend the PCA3 urine in men who have already had an unclear or negative biopsy of their prostate gland.


Usually you have a trans rectal ultrasound (trus) biopsy. You have the biopsy through your back passage (rectum) using an ultrasound scanner and a needle. 

Researchers are trying to find different ways of taking a sample of cells from the prostate (biopsies), to help monitor or diagnose prostate cancer. 

Breath samples

Researchers are looking for new ways to spot cancer early. In this study they are looking at breath samples. 

Early research shows that cells inside the body make substances that end up in the blood and are breathed out from the lungs (exhaled). These studies point out that the substances might be different if someone has cancer. The researchers in this study plan to collect and analyse breath samples to see if the exhaled breath can detect cancer. They’ll compare samples from people who have cancer with people who don’t. 


You might have an MRI scan to identify areas in your prostate that might be cancer. To confirm this doctors might use a targeted biopsy to take samples of tissue (biopsy) from the areas. 

Researchers think doing an ultrasound using a contrast dye might be just as good at showing areas in the prostate that could have cancer cells. 

Last reviewed: 
05 Aug 2019
  • Cancer: Principles and practice of oncology (10th edition)
    DeVita and others
    Lipincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2015

  • Prevention and early detection of prostate cancer.
    Cuzick and others. T
    he Lancet Oncology. Vol 15, 2014

  • Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials database
    Accessed August 2019

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