The prostate gland is a small gland, which only men have. It is located at the front of the rectum, just below the bladder and is involved in the production of semen. It cannot be seen or felt from outside the body, so until recently a rectal exam was the only way to check the health of the prostrate. Fortunately, it is now possible to examine the prostrate using an MRI scan.
As men age they begin to have health problems that relate to their prostrate. The prostate gland can become infected and tumours can begin to grow there. As a result, it is important to have your prostrate checked annually as you get into your 50s. Most of the time the tumours that grow on the prostrate are non-malignant, but occasionally they turn out to be cancer.
An MRI scan is far less intrusive than a rectal exam, so it is much easier for the patient to cope with. The MRI scan shows the entire prostrate and all of the surrounding tissue, so that even the tiniest tumour will show up on the scan.
The doctor can often tell from looking at any tumour found what type of cancer it is likely to be, allowing them to determine the best treatment options much more easily. More importantly, they can see if the cancer has spread to the lymph glands and other areas around the prostrate. The more information the doctor has about the cancer, the more effective the treatment is.
MRI scans are also used for MR spectroscopy, which allows the chemical composition of the prostate to be examined. This information is then used to diagnose a number of prostate diseases, including prostate cancer, even at the very early stage.
During a Prostrate MRI scan, an endorectal coil is sometimes inserted into your rectum, so you will feel more comfortable if you have emptied your bowels prior to the scan. Eat light meals on the day prior to your exam to help you not to be too full. Sometimes an enema is administered prior to the MRI scan to clear your bowel. Most men find having an MRI scan more comfortable and less stressful than a rectal exam.
Do not wear anything metal or any clothing with metal zips or buttons prior to your MRI. Leave your credit cards, hearing aids etc outside the exam room. If you have any metal plates or screws in your body, you cannot undergo an MRI.
Depending on who carries out the MRI scan, you will get the results either immediately the scan is finished, or be given an appointment to see the doctor for the results. An MRI takes a series of detailed pictures of your prostate, which the doctor can refer to at a later date. Should prostate cancer be found, further MRI scans might be used to monitor how well the cancer treatment is working.