Wales ‘behind’ in technology to detect prostate cancer

A man holds his head in his handsImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Around 32,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed annually in the UK

A father-of-four who survived prostate cancer has said he is “fortunate” to be alive after an MRI scan spotted the disease before it developed.

Sion Brynach, from Cardiff, is now calling for more men to get access to a pre-biopsy scan to give them more of a chance at life.

It comes as a new report shows Wales is lagging behind in access to mpMRI scans – which can detect the disease better.

The Welsh Government said the use of mpMRI was under review.

The Multiparametic MRI (mpMRI) scan, which is done before a biopsy, is able to boost detection of prostate cancer.

In England, an NHS trial is under way to cut prostate cancer diagnosis times from six weeks to a matter of days using the scan.

But in Wales only three out of seven Welsh health boards provide the scan, as it is not currently recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

It is available in Cardiff and Vale, Aneurin Bevan and Cwm Taf health boards, but not in north Wales.

According to a report by charity Prostate Cancer UK, detection in Wales is lagging behind when compared to that in England where 92% of areas provide mpMRI before biopsy, 60% of which provide the scan to a high standard.

Image copyright HUW JOHN
Image caption Siôn Brynach was diagnosed with prostate cancer when he was 49 after it was detected on an MRI scan

‘It’s a very striking experience’

Last November Mr Brynach was sat in his office when he got a call telling him he had a tumour.

He was 49-years-old.

Luckily his prostate cancer was diagnosed before it had developed to a stage where it could not be treated – after he had an MRI scan despite a blood test showing that things were normal.

He now wants to see all men to have the chance to access the latest technology to detect the cancer sooner, saying the PSA test, which involves taking a patients blood to measure the amount of prostate-specific antigen, was “unreliable”.

“You always want there to be a universal access to these sorts of scans,” he said.

“I had my MRI scan before my biopsy, which was fortunate.

“The more it is available to everyone, the better. Technology moves on so quickly – things are different in just six months – so you want people to have access to the latest technology when it comes to their health.”

Charity Prostate Cancer UK said the “inequality in access cannot be allowed to continue.”

The Welsh Government said while NICE do not currently recommend a pre-biopsy MRI scan, this was under review and if the position changed health boards would be expected to provide it.

A spokesman added: “Health boards are already considering the potential impact of the revised guideline through the Wales Urology Board.”

Image copyright Prostate Cancer UK
Image caption Raymond Starr was unable to access the scan for free

Raymond Starr, 63, from Colwyn Bay, in Conwy county, paid nearly £900 to have the mpMRI scan after being unable to get it at an NHS hospital in north Wales.

“It came as a shock that I had to pay but I didn’t hesitate,” he said.

“When the pictures came back, it was clear that there was a tumour.”

Just 14 weeks ago, he went to Liverpool and had keyhole surgery to remove the tumour.

“We’re not greedy,” he added, “We can’t expect this scanner to be in every hospital in north Wales – cost wise you can’t do it – but at the very least, we should have it in the middle.

“I would have gone in a normal MRI scanner if I hadn’t paid and they wouldn’t have got a picture as accurate as they needed.

“The longer you leave it, the worse the result could be.”

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