Prostate cancer MRI scan action call by patients

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Media captionStuart Davies, from Llangollen, decided to pay for the scan after being offered a standard biopsy

Prostate cancer patients in north Wales want an MRI scan given in three areas in south Wales to be made more widely available on the NHS.

Some men treated by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board have opted to pay £900 for a pre-biopsy scan to find out whether they have prostate cancer.

The health board said the mpMRI scan was not currently a recommendation under national guidelines.

However, a spokesman said its use was being reviewed.

Two men who paid for the scan to diagnose their condition said it should be offered to everyone awaiting diagnosis.

Charity Prostate Cancer UK has said an "mpMRI before biopsy can radically improve diagnosis".

A trial is under way by the NHS in England to cut prostate cancer diagnosis times from six weeks to a matter of days using the scan.

Stuart Davies, a former councillor from Llangollen, Denbighshire, who was offered a standard biopsy by doctors, decided to have the mpMRI scan.

He said some men awaiting tests may not know such a scan could help with their diagnosis, although not all could necessarily afford it.

Steve Roberts from Flintshire said: "If you haven't the ability to pay, you are left at home wondering whether you have got cancer," adding that a standard test was not as accurate as the MRI scan.

The pair were among a number of men who later found out Cardiff and Vale, Cwm Taf and Aneurin Bevan health boards in south Wales offered them for free.

Image caption Steve Roberts paid for an MRI scan

The Welsh Government said the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) did not currently recommend a pre-biopsy MRI scan, although it was under review.

If it changes its position then health boards would be expected to provide it.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said it offered a range of tests, including mpMRI scans, in line with the current NICE guidance.

However, it was reviewing the use to find the best option for prostate patients.

Deputy medical director Mark Walker said if its clinicians "feel there has been a significant advance ahead of guidance from NICE then this will be highlighted to clinical leaders in the health board for consideration for service development in the future".

Analysis by Owain Clarke, BBC Wales health correspondent

Three health boards in south east Wales are piloting a new MRI scanning technique which can show up cancer in better detail.

Now that is not to say patients elsewhere in Wales do not get access to scans at all.

More than half of prostate cancer patients, according to an audit last year, are scanned at some point in their treatment journey with this new technique but often after the initial diagnosis.

The whole point of trials or pilots in the NHS is to determine how effective new procedures and processes are.

No health system in the world would universally adopt a new way of working without testing it first, even though patients living outside the pilot areas would naturally enough like access as soon as possible.

In this instance, cancer charities suggest Wales has to a certain extent been behind the curve.

More continuity across Wales, I'm told, is on the way.

But speaking generally I've seen countless examples in north Wales of innovations being tested that are not yet available elsewhere.

The hope is if they work, and are cost effective, they will eventually be available for all of us.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We do not support variations in service provision across Wales. However, we recognise sometimes clinicians take different views about emerging evidence before NICE guidance is published."

Mark Isherwood, Conservative AM for north Wales, is among those calling for free scans to be made available for all patients in Wales.

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