Imaging Tests for Prostate Cancer

Imaging Tests for Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is one of the most treatable cancers if caught early on. Ninety percent of men with prostate cancer are reported to have had it diagnosed in its early stages. If your doctor suspects you might have prostate cancer, they will ask you about any symptoms you are having, such as any urinary or sexual problems, and how long you have had them. You might also be asked about possible risk factors, including your family history. Ask your primary care doctor about when is the right time to start screening.

Imaging tests use x-rays, magnetic fields, sound waves, or radioactive substances to create pictures of the inside of your body and play an important role in diagnosing prostate cancer early. One or more of the following imaging tests might be used to diagnose prostate cancer and create better prostate cancer treatment.

Which tests you might need will depend on your situation and risk factor. For example, a prostate biopsy is typically done with transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) and/or MRI to help guide the biopsy. Unlike screenings for breast and colon cancers, there are no universal screening guidelines for prostate cancer. If you are found to have prostate cancer, you might need imaging tests of other parts of your body to look for possible cancer spread. Talk to your doctor about medical imaging for prostate cancer to learn more.


A transrectal ultrasound is the most well-known diagnostic test for prostate cancer. For this test, a small probe about the width of a finger is lubricated and placed in your rectum. The probe gives off sound waves that enter the prostate and create echoes. The probe picks up the echoes, and a computer turns them into a black and white image of the prostate.

The procedure often takes less than 10 minutes and is done in a doctor’s office or outpatient clinic. You will feel some pressure when the probe is inserted, but it is usually not painful. The area may be numbed before the procedure.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI scans create detailed images of soft tissues in the body using strong magnetic waves and radio waves. MRI scans can give doctors a very clear picture of the prostate and nearby areas. A contrast material called gadolinium may be injected into a vein before the scan to better see details. MRI scans are considered the best option for looking at the prostate gland itself.

MRI might be used in different situations:

  • If a prostate biopsy is planned, an MRI machine might be used to help locate and target areas of the prostate that are most likely to contain cancer. This is often done as an MRI/ultrasound fusion biopsy.
  • MRI can be used during a prostate biopsy to help guide the needles into the prostate.
  • If prostate cancer has been found, MRI can be done to help determine the extent (stage) of cancer and they can show if cancer has spread outside the prostate into the seminal vesicles or other nearby structures. This can be very important in determining your treatment options. 

To improve the accuracy of the MRI, you might have a probe, called an endorectal coil, placed inside your rectum for the scan. This can be uncomfortable for some men. Sedation options are sometimes available.

Bone Scan

If prostate cancer spreads to distant parts of the body, it often goes to the bones first. A bone scan, also known as a DEXA scan, can help show if cancer has reached the bones.

For this test, you are injected with a small amount of low-level radioactive material, which settles in damaged areas of bone throughout the body. A special camera detects radioactivity and creates a picture of your skeleton.

A bone scan might suggest cancer in the bone, but to make an accurate diagnosis, other tests such as plain x-rays, CT or MRI scans, or even a bone biopsy might be needed.

Computed Tomography (CT Scan)

A computed tomography scan uses x-rays to make detailed, cross-sectional images of your body. This test isn’t often needed for newly diagnosed prostate cancer if the cancer is likely to be confined to the prostate based on other findings. A CT scan can sometimes help tell if prostate cancer has spread into nearby lymph nodes. If your prostate cancer has come back after treatment, the CT scan can often tell if it is growing into other organs or structures in your pelvis.

As with any type of cancer, it is best to get the opinion of a reputable medical professional like a primary care physician or oncologist before proceeding with any medical imaging or treatment for prostate cancer.

To book a scan, visit us at Medmo helps people schedule radiology imaging tests – such as MRI, CT scans, PET, and more – at nearby accredited centers and identify the payment solution that works best for them.


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