Using magnetic resonance imaging in tandem with the traditional ultrasound method can significantly improve prostate cancer detection, according to a study recently published in JAMA Surgery.

Prostate cancer has been traditionally diagnosed with only ultrasound. Physicians use the technique for tissue biopsy. However, this method alone can’t detect certain tumors. Historically, MRI-based biopsy practices are practical because they can detect precise lesions on the prostate. Yet, not all tumors appear on MRI, making it difficult to identify all kinds of cancer. Researchers from the University of California Los Angeles found that MRI allows physicians to zone in on specific lesions and collect tissue from them, and increases cancer detection rates by 33 percent.

During the three-year long study, researchers evaluated 300 people, 248 of which had prostate lesions visible on MRI. Both ultrasound and MRI methods were used to detect cancer in 70 percent of participants. They found that an additional 52 men had no visible lesion on MRI but 15 percent of that group were diagnosed with cancer via the ultrasound method, an indication that MRI isn’t fully effective at detecting all tumors.

“Improving our ability to see the location of cancer in the prostate in real time opens up the door for treatment innovations,” said senior study author Dr. Leonard Marks. “If we can identify the location of tumors and put biopsy needles directly into them, why not find a way to destroy the tumor on the spot?”