Each year, thousands of Canadian men with prostate cancer undergo biopsies to help their doctors better understand the progression and nature of their disease. It provides vital, sometimes life-saving information, yet cancer researcher John Lewis knows it can be a difficult test to ask of anyone.
“Currently the best way to get information is through a biopsy, which involves pushing 12 needles through an organ the size of a walnut. As you might imagine, it’s a very uncomfortable and invasive procedure,” says Lewis, the Frank and Carla Sojonky Chair in Prostate Cancer Research at the University of Alberta and a member of the Cancer Research Institute of Northern Alberta. “Patients with low grade prostate cancer can decide not to get treatment and instead monitor the disease, but monitoring usually involves a biopsy every year or so. Many people opt for surgery instead of more biopsies. It is clearly something we need to improve upon.”