A “negative” CT scan for prostate cancer isn’t anything to get too hopeful about because a CT scan can actually miss prostate cancer.

“Yes, a CT scan can miss prostate cancer,” says Jonathan W. Simons, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, David H. Koch Chair.

Dr. Simons explains, “A CT scan is fundamentally a three-dimensional X-ray of the body. It does not intrinsically distinguish between cancer and normal tissue.

“We therefore rely on anatomical changes to tell us the probability something is normal or is cancer.

“For example, if a lymph node is normal in size it still has the potential to have cancer in it.

“However, if a lymph node is enlarged it has a much higher probability there is cancer present, although not guaranteed.

“Any imaging modality can’t identify microscopic disease, so a CT scan, MRI scan and PET scan can miss prostate cancer that may have spread.”

This CT scan shows prostate cancer. Creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Wikimedia Commons

The presence of prostate cancer can be indicated by an abnormally elevated PSA blood test result or by a digital rectal exam (physician inserts finger into the rectum and feels a suspicious mass on the prostate gland).

These tests do not diagnose a malignancy; they can only raise suspicion. Diagnosis is made only via a biopsy of tissue extracted from the prostate gland.

Unfortunately, a biopsy of the prostate gland can miss cancer.

dr. simonsDr. Simons is an internationally recognized physician-scientist, oncologist and acclaimed investigator in translational prostate cancer research.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  



Top image: Shutterstock/Chinnapongct scan