New prostate cancer screening tests are being tested in laboratories across the country. These tests are being devised to replace, or at least complement, the PSA test. Why the push for alternate ways to screen for prostate cancer? The PSA test has been found to cause a number of diagnostic problems, including wrong diagnoses resulting in unnecessary biopsies, radiation treatments, and even operations.
On the forefront of these new tests are those that utilize genomic analysis. Genomic analysis is being developed for use after prostate surgery to determine whether or not a patient needs further treatment. Other genomic tests hope to reduce the number of false diagnoses that have plagued the prostate cancer screening program. Sometimes, a patient can show signs of an elevated PSA reading, when, in fact, nothing is wrong with the prostate. Such “false positive” results can cause a lot of unneeded anxiety for patients.
Once a prostate cancer diagnosis is made, some of these newly created tests could help to determine the best course of therapy in the coming months. Prostate cancer is often a slow moving disease, but sometimes it progresses more quickly in certain individuals. Conducting a genomic analysis could help to expose the genetic blueprint of a tumor and tell a doctor and patient whether or not the tumor is likely to grow quickly or more slowly. If a tumor is growing slowly, it can be left alone for an indefinite time.
So far, the PSA test doesn’t distinguish between threatening cancers and those that aren’t likely to cause harm over the long term. This creates the scenario where a healthy man tests positive and all of a sudden has to undergo treatments and procedures that are stressful and probably unnecessary. Undergoing radiation treatments and/or surgery can trigger problems with incontinence and sexual performance.
There are going to be a few bumps along the way, however, in creating new genomic tests. A recent clinical review recommended that the PCA3 (prostate cancer antigen 3) test not be used to inform decisions about when to re-biopsy in patients that have already returned a negative biopsy. Nor did the researchers recommend that the PCA3 be used to inform decisions about when to conduct an initial biopsy for prostate cancer in men who are at risk.
The research group, called “The Evaluation of Genomic Applications in Practice and Prevention (EGAPP) Working Group,” also noted that there was insufficient evidence that the PCA3 test could correctly identify slow moving or aggressive cancer and therefore could not be used to develop an optimal treatment plan.
The researchers noted the need for early diagnosis of prostate cancer in minimizing illness and preventing mortality. They would like to see improvement in the PCA3 test so that it has a better record when it comes to health outcomes.
Talk to your doctor about these new forms of prostate tests. Keep informed about what is happening. Together, you and your doctor can decide which tests will be of the most benefit to you.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
“Recommendations from the EGAPP Working Group: does PCA3 testing for the diagnosis and management of prostate cancer improve patient health outcomes?” Journal
Genet Med. Sept 26, 2013.
Huffaker, S., “New Prostate Cancer Tests Could Reduce False Alarms,” The New York Times web site, March 26, 2013; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/27/business/new-prostate-cancer-tests-may-supplement-psa-testing.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0, last accessed Oct. 1, 2013.