By Kennedy Shelley
About 1 in 9 men will benefit from this new test. That’s how many men will suffer from prostate cancer.
Nearly 31,000 men will die from prostate cancer this year. But even more, will suffer long term consequences from various treatments for the disease.
But there are nearly one million biopsies of the prostate done each year, and 17-44% of these tests result in positive results.
Even testing for cancer has some risks. PSA blood tests are a good screening tool, but a high PSA level can result in a biopsy, which is 74% accurate.
A biopsy can result in infections and bleeding problems too. About 3% of the men who have biopsies develop infections despite receiving antibiotics before the biopsy.
These include urinary tract infections and infections of the prostate itself, both are extremely painful. 1-4% of these procedures result in infections that require hospitalization.
With a million of these tests done every year, then upwards of 40,000 men are spending time in the hospital because of the biopsies.
So many strains of bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics, that this problem will undoubtedly get worse. Canada has reported that in 1995 the need for hospitalization following a biopsy was only .6%, but that jumped to 3.6% by 2013.
Consumer Reports did a story on prostate biopsies, and they were even more pessimistic than most medical sites.
But a new blood test which is more than 90% accurate will be available soon according to the Journal of Urology.
Dr. Yong-Jie Lu a professor of molecular oncology at Barts Cancer Institute of Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom.
In his words: “This could lead to a paradigm shift in the way we diagnose prostate cancer.”
PSA tests look for a protein produced by the prostate gland.
Because of the risk of the biopsies and the lack of good screening tools, there are some groups that recommend that men just don’t get screened.
Edward Schaeffer, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine says:
“Consider skipping prostate-cancer screening altogether. It can detect prostate cancer early but testing 1,000 men every one to four years from age 55 to 69 has been shown to prevent up to one death from the disease.
Also, PSA testing can lead to unneeded biopsies. Consumer Reports says men ages 50 to 74 should talk with a doctor to see whether the benefits of the test outweigh the risks based on several factors.
Older men rarely need the PSA test because the cancer typically progresses so slowly that treatment doesn’t improve survival. Younger men should consider testing only if they’re at high risk, because the cancer is uncommon before age 50. (Risk factors include a family history of the disease, being African-American, and smoking.)”
The current PSA test can be elevated by long bike rides or recently having sex. So, don’t rely on only one PSA test before agreeing to a risky biopsy.
And to make matters more complicated, it is not always clear that just because you have prostate cancer that you want to do anything about it.
Because certain cancers grow so slowly, the odds are that something else will kill you before the cancer gets to be a problem.
At least with this new test, there is less need for biopsies for a cancer that might not need treatment anyway.