Recently, advances in technology have made the MRI one of the best tests for evaluating whether prostate cancer has extended beyond the gland itself.
A prostate MRI is quite a bit different from other MRI exams. Like other MRIs, it involves laying on a table that slides into a doughnut-shaped machine, and laying still for up to one hour. The difference, however, is that for a prostate MRI to be as useful as possible, a coil must be placed into the rectum. This coil is specially designed to allow for detailed pictures of the prostate gland and surrounding tissue.
Studies have shown that endorectal coil MRI (MRI with a coil placed into the rectum) is extremely sensitive for detecting the spread of prostate cancer. This type of MRI is very good for detecting cancer that has spread into the seminal vesicles or through the capsule of the prostate into the adjacent tissues.
MRI and other advanced medical imaging techniques for prostate cancer are hot topics of research today and more advances will likely be seen in the near future.
Hricak H, White S, Vigneron D, Kurhanewicz J, Kosco A, Levin D, Weiss J, Narayan P, Carroll PR. (1994). "Carcinoma of the prostate gland: MR imaging with pelvic phased-array coils versus integrated endorectal-pelvic phased-array coils.". Radiology 193 (3): 703–709.