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Research into the diagnosis and causes of 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. Tests that doctors are looking at include new types of MRI scans and breath tests. 

Researchers are also looking at why prostate cancer develops in some people but not others and what can be done to prevent it. 

Screening

There’s research looking at whether using a type of MRI scan called multiparametric MRI scan (mpMRI) 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

Biopsy

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.

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. A team of researchers wants 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. 

Scans

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. 

Genes

The risk of developing prostate cancer is higher in men who have a brother or father with prostate cancer. And black-African and black-Caribbean men are more likely than white men to develop it. There are some genes that we know run in families that are important in the development of prostate cancer.

Researchers want to find out:

  • how a family history can increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer
  • whether there are other genes that might increase the risk

To find the answers they are developing a DNA bank, using saliva, blood and tumour samples from thousands of men. They are also asking the men to answer a questionnaire. And seeing whether screening would be useful in these people. 

Diet and physical activity

Researchers are looking at ways to prevent and slow the growth of prostate cancer.

Research looking at whether particular foods could help to prevent prostate cancer hasn’t found any foods that cause or prevent prostate cancer so far.

Researchers are also looking into the impact of lifestyle changes after treatment such as diet and physical activity.

They also want to find out what information people need to help them make those changes.

Aspirin

Researchers are also looking into whether aspirin can lower the risk of prostate cancer coming back after treatment.

Research into treatment for prostate cancer

Researchers are looking into new treatments for early and advanced prostate cancer. 

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.
    The Lancet Oncology. Vol 15, 2014

  • Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials database
    Accessed August 2019

  • A systematic review of dietary, nutritional and physical activity interventions for the prevention of prostate cancer progression and mortality.

    Cancer Causes and Control, 2015. Vol 26

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