New Safer Prostate Cancer Detection Techonology Available for the First Time in New Zealand

Published: 03 May 2018

Bruce Bennett says new technology that zeroes in on hard-to-target prostate cancer is a great advancement – he just wishes it had arrived earlier, and cheaper.

After three biopsies, dating back to 2005, that missed his cancer, Bennett – a 65-year-old retired Wellington teacher – was tested earlier this year with new fusion biopsy technology, which found a tumour that was treated with a prostatectomy in January.

But whatever the cost, and the outcome, Bennett said he was sold on the technology.

"For men it's a great advance because it's much more accurate," he said. 

In a New Zealand first, urologists Rod Studd and Grant Russell from Wellington's private Wakefield Hospital have brought the German technology to New Zealand. 

They hope one day the trans-perineal fusion guided biopsy procedure, which costs between $8000 and $10,000, will become part of the public health system.

"The goal would be to have it filter into public health," Russell said.

Studd said Bennett had made an excellent recovery with no incontinence and minimal pain. 

The whole procedure takes about 20 minutes under general anaesthetic. A needle is inserted via the perineum, rather than the rectum, which reduces the risk of post procedure infection. 

Following the biopsy, the patient heads home later that same day.

Bennett's story highlighted the limitations of standard biopsy and the improved outcomes that can be achieved with the new technique, Studd said.

By blending MRI and ultrasound, via a rectal probe, the technique shows the suspected cancerous area. Once a potential tumour is identified the fusion biopsy can be performed through the perineum with significantly increased accuracy over a more traditional rectal biopsy.

About 3000 New Zealand men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, and 600 of them die.

Prostate cancer can be hard to detect, often involving extended and repeated biopsies that can lead to inflammation and infection, and they may not pick up cancerous tissue.

"With fusion technology we are less likely to find those very small slow growing cancers that are of such low threat that treatment is not required," Studd said.

"Conversely, we are more likely to detect the more active and threatening cancers that do need treatment."

It effectively lets doctors see cancers, lessening the "needle in a haystack" blind search that often characterises a traditional biopsy, he said.

The risk of infection is only about one-in-1000 with the new method, which is 30 to 50 times less common than trans-rectal infection. 

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