For the first 20-plus years of Dr. Richard M. Levin’s career as a urologist, he conducted prostate biopsies the very same way, using an ultrasound, which creates a two-dimensional image, to check for traces of cancer.
That technology was the best the field had to offer, but it came with one major shortcoming.
“It didn’t allow us to see abnormalities in the prostate 95 percent of the time,” Dr. Levin said. “Ninety-five percent of the time, the prostate looked normal even if there was cancer. … With all the advances in imaging that have come along, there was still not a better way to see abnormalities in the prostate until more recently.”
Starting in October 2012, Dr. Levin and his partners at Chesapeake Urology have been among the handful of physicians in the country to offer that “better way.”
The practice has instituted a 3D fusion biopsy. The procedure combines the images produced by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and an ultrasound to create an enhanced, three-dimensional map for doctors when conducting a biopsy. The technique became available with the advent of new computer software, and Chesapeake Urology is still the only practice on Maryland that offers it.
The paramount advantage of the 3D fusion biopsy is that it enables urologists to take more accurate samples because they have a better grasp of what they are looking at during the procedure and thus know which areas to target.
“If there is an abnormality, we are more likely to find it with this newer technology.” Dr. Levin said.
And, as a result of the procedures increased accuracy and effectiveness, patients can be more assured of their results.
“If somebody doesn’t have cancer at that point, we’re much more sure about that fact,” Dr. Levin said. “And if somebody does have a cancer that’s going to be a problem, we’re more likely to find it and take care of it. For patients, there is less reservation of leaving with a negative test.”
In the short time since offering the procedure, Dr. Levin said there have already been multiple patients who left with negative tests following a standard ultrasound biopsy only to have abnormalities found upon being examined by the 3D fusion method at Chesapeake.
Although Dr. Levin predicts that the 3D examination will be the benchmark in the years to come, he said that it is not widely offered yet because the technology is still new and expensive and the procedure takes twice as long as the standard biopsy. Neither of those issues hindered the team at Chesapeake when deciding to implement the procedure.
“We want to offer the latest cutting-edge technology to our patients,” Dr. Levin said. “We definitely have saved patient’s lives by finding cancer that was [previously] harder to find.”