Three hospitals in England are trialling a “world-leading” approach to diagnosing prostate cancer that could significantly cut the time it takes to detect the disease.

Charing Cross Hospital, Epsom Hospital, and Queen Mary Hospital’s Hospital in Roehamptom are piloting the novel approach, called RAPID, which they say is helping to slash diagnosis times for prostate cancer from six weeks to just one week.

The process involves a new scanning and diagnosis method that enables men to have an MRI scan and get their results on the same day. For those with a suspicious MRI, a biopsy is also done on the same day, using new FUSION technology, rather than multiple outpatient visits over four to six weeks.

The traditional pathway is an MRI scan followed by a biopsy, which involves the collection of up to around a dozen samples with a needle through the rectum, in order to locate suspect growths. The new technique uses highly detailed ‘multi-parametric’ MRI – mpMRI – scans offering higher quality images.

Between a third and 40 percent of patients who have an mpMRI scan will find out that they can safely avoid having a biopsy. For those that do need a biopsy, the new FUSION machines overlay ultrasound images with 3D MRI scans to create a highly detailed map of the prostate that accurately show suspect areas for taking tissue samples.

This allows clinicians to insert the needle through the perineum, rather than the rectum, which cuts the risk of infection by between 2 percent to 6 percent to around one case in 500.

“We have achieved quicker time to diagnosis of prostate cancer and quicker times to treatment than ever before. Our results show by using this new pathway we are doing fewer biopsies,” said Professor Hashim Ahmed, consultant urologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and new chair of NHS England’s Clinical Expert Group for Prostate Cancer.

“In fact, the men that do need biopsies are having state-of-the-art precise biopsies that are finding aggressive cancers earlier and we believe this will lead to better outcomes following treatment."