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Cancer survivor hits out at lack of prostate scan equipment in Northern Ireland

By Mark Bain

A Co Down man who survived prostrate cancer after a four-year battle has said men in Northern Ireland are being let down by health trusts that don't have access to the latest scan technology.

Raymond McKee (57) from Newtownards was checked for prostate cancer in 2014 not long after his cousin was diagnosed with an advanced form of the disease.

Prostate Cancer UK said yesterday that research has shown that a multiparametric MRI (mpMRI) before a biopsy could radically boost detection of prostate cancer and cut unnecessary biopsies.

However, only two of our health trusts are offering this - and none are providing it to a high enough standard to rule men out of a biopsy altogether.

Raymond, who has been given the all-clear, is appalled that mpMRI is still not available to most men here.

"I was diagnosed with prostate cancer on May 15 2014," he explained.

"I'd gone to my GP after my cousin was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in the same year."

The results of a test that measures the amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in blood were slightly elevated, so Raymond was referred to a urologist at his local hospital for further investigation.

"However, after being told I needed to wait nine weeks for a biopsy, I decided to go private. I had a TRUS biopsy (which takes 12 random samples from the prostate gland) followed by a normal MRI," he said.

"But TRUS biopsies can miss some clinically significant cancers.

"An mpMRI scan gives a very detailed picture of the prostate gland and can detect approximately 90% of clinically significant prostate cancers.

"However, mpMRI is not available in all areas across the UK, and in Northern Ireland nowhere provides mpMRI to the gold standard.

"When you're faced with a cancer diagnosis, there are so many uncertainties, but if mpMRI was available when I was diagnosed I would have instantly known what I was up against."

He added: "The exact location of the cancer could have been located and my biopsy could have been targeted, rather than using the stab in the dark technique which can miss some cancers.

"It is outrageous that men in Northern Ireland are being denied this diagnostic technique despite it being proven to radically boost detection of prostate cancer and cut unnecessary biopsies."

Raymond was diagnosed with stage two prostate cancer.

"It came as a tremendous shock. I had no symptoms and was only 53 years old. I opted to have a radical prostatectomy and was referred for treatment in Cambridge because surgery was not available in Northern Ireland," he said.

Heather Blake, director of Support and Influencing at Prostate Cancer UK, said all men should be able to access the latest diagnostic scans.

"The evidence in support of mpMRI before biopsy is overwhelming - it is the biggest breakthrough in prostate cancer diagnosis for decades," she said.

The Department of Health did not respond to a request for comment.

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