THOUSANDS more men can be screened for prostate cancer thanks to a painless 20-minute test.
A study found ultrasound scans are 95 per cent as accurate at picking up tumours as the gold-standard MRI.
And they take just half the time and cost £50 instead of £250.
Medics say the simple scans can speed up diagnosis for the most common cancer in the UK, with 52,000 cases per year.
Professor Hashim Ahmed, of Imperial College London, said: “MRI scans are one of the tests we use to diagnose prostate cancer but these scans are expensive, take up to 40 minutes to perform and are not easily available to all.
“As cancer waiting lists build as a result of the pandemic, there is a real need to find more efficient and cheaper tests to diagnose prostate cancer.
“Our study is the first to show that a special type of ultrasound scan can be used.”
A UK trial on 370 men found the ultrasound detected 24 dangerous prostate cancers out of every 25 spotted by the MRI.
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Although it is slightly less accurate the scan is faster, cheaper and simpler and could help medics screen men more efficiently or be used in poorer countries.
Some men are also not able to have an MRI scan, for example if they have had a metal hip replacement.
The test works using a small probe in the rectum which sends out sound waves to create pictures of the inside of the body, revealing growths.
It shows dense areas where there is more blood flow, which are more likely to be tumours, researchers said in the journal Lancet Oncology.
Prostate cancer is common but many men are embarrassed or worried about getting tested or treated, meaning extra options are vital.
Prostate Cancer UK, which funded the trial, warns 14,000 cases have been missed during the pandemic.
Blokes didn’t want to “bother” their doctor while Covid was kicking off, experts said – but survival is higher when tumours are found early.
NHS data shows 58,000 patients have started NHS treatment for the disease since April 2020.
But that is 14,099 fewer than would have been expected compared with pre-pandemic numbers.
And the charity warns the number of "missing" patients will continue to grow unless more blokes come forward when they spot symptoms.
They include problems urinating or needing to pee more often.
For many, symptoms do not appear until the disease has spread, so the charity is urging men to use its risk assessment tool.
Survival is much higher if cases are picked up early.
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