MRI prostate cancer screening leads to fewer biopsies, cutting millions in healthcare spending

One country’s move toward multiparametric MRI of the prostate to diagnose cancer has led to a dramatic drop in biopsies while also saving millions in healthcare spending, experts say.

This “promising” diagnostic tool was first made available in Australia in 2012, with Medicare funding coming in 2018. A shift from clinical exams and prostate-specific antigen screening toward mpMRIp has produced 354.7 fewer biopsies each month and about $9.4 million (USD) in annual savings, experts reported Tuesday in BJU International.

“Our research shows publicly funded prostate MRI not only represents good policy in terms of health equity, but it also makes sense from a financial perspective,” lead author Thomas Whish-Wilson, MD, a surgeon with St. Vincent’s Hospital and the University of Melbourne, in Australia, said in a statement.

To reach their conclusions, the research team analyzed Medicare data collected between 2007 and 2019. That included the period prior to mpMRIp’s availability (2007-2012), when it was available only via private pay (2012-2018), and after government insurance started covering the exam (2018-2019). Using PSA testing numbers as the control, Whish-Wilson and colleagues determined that the introduction of prostate MRI “correlated with a significant reduction in biopsy rates.”

“Government funding of this diagnostic service has the potential to improve health equity and save on health expenditure,” the team concluded.

Read more of their findings in BJUI here.