Weighing Your Options For Treatment
If you test positive for prostate cancer, you have some options as to what youd like to do about it. Until recently, nearly everyone opted for surgery or radiation, while some patients choose not to undergo treatment, instead opting for active surveillance, during which the cancers are left alone but regularly monitored to be certain that theyre not growing.
Certainly, screening can lead to earlier prostate cancer detection, and with earlier detection, youre eligible for multiple different treatments or active surveillance, said Sia Daneshmand, MD, associate professor of urology at Keck School of Medicine of USC and director of urologic oncology at the USC Institute of Urology at Keck Medicine of USC. So we encourage patients who are candidates for screening to discuss it with their urologist and/or primary care physician so that we can determine whats the best course of treatment for them.
There also is a new option for those seeking prostate cancer treatment. Its called High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound , which uses ultrasound beams to non-surgically destroy prostate tumors.
If you are in the Los Angeles area, schedule an appointment with one of our urologists by calling or by visiting Urology.KeckMedicine.org/request-an-appointment.
Special Types Of Psa Tests
The PSA level from a screening test is sometimes referred to as total PSA, because it includes the different forms of PSA . If you decide to get a PSA screening test and the result isnt normal, some doctors might consider using different types of PSA tests to help decide if you need a prostate biopsy, although not all doctors agree on how to use these tests. If your PSA test result isnt normal, ask your doctor to discuss your cancer risk and your need for further tests.
Percent-free PSA: PSA occurs in 2 major forms in the blood. One form is attached to blood proteins, while the other circulates free . The percent-free PSA is the ratio of how much PSA circulates free compared to the total PSA level. The percentage of free PSA is lower in men who have prostate cancer than in men who do not.
If your PSA test result is in the borderline range , the percent-free PSA might be used to help decide if you should have a prostate biopsy. A lower percent-free PSA means that your chance of having prostate cancer is higher and you should probably have a biopsy.
Many doctors recommend a prostate biopsy for men whose percent-free PSA is 10% or less, and advise that men consider a biopsy if it is between 10% and 25%. Using these cutoffs detects most cancers and helps some men avoid unnecessary biopsies. This test is widely used, but not all doctors agree that 25% is the best cutoff point to decide on a biopsy, and the cutoff may change depending on the overall PSA level.
Transrectal Ultrasound With Prostate Biopsy
Transrectal ultrasound is most often used to examine the prostate. In a transrectal ultrasound, the health care provider inserts a transducer slightly larger than a pen into the mans rectum next to the prostate. The ultrasound image shows the size of the prostate and any abnormal-looking areas, such as tumors. Transrectal ultrasound cannot definitively identify prostate cancer.
To determine whether a tumor is cancerous, the health care provider uses the transducer and ultrasound images to guide a needle to the tumor. The needle is then used to remove a few pieces of prostate tissue for examination with a microscope. This process, called biopsy, can reveal whether prostate cancer is present. A transrectal ultrasound with prostate biopsy is usually performed by a doctor in a health care providers office, outpatient center, or hospital with light sedation and local anesthesia. The biopsied prostate tissue is examined in a laboratory by a pathologista doctor who specializes in diagnosing diseases.
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Finding Prostate Cancer Early
There is no national screening program for the early detection of prostate cancer. Doctors have different opinions about whether all men without symptoms of prostate cancer should be tested.
There is concern that testing healthy men will cause unnecessary harm and lead to treatments that may not offer long-term benefits. Treatment for prostate cancer can leave men with side effects such as erectile dysfunction and continence issues, which can affect their quality of life.
Testing may identify fast-growing or aggressive cancers that have the potential to spread to other parts of the body and would benefit from treatment. It may also detect very slow-growing cancers that are unlikely to be harmful.
Weigh up all the risks and benefits before deciding whether to be tested for prostate cancer, particularly if you dont have symptoms. Talking to your doctor can help.
What Are The Symptoms Of Prostate Problems
The symptoms of prostate problems may include
- urinary retentionthe inability to empty the bladder completely
- urinary frequencyurination eight or more times a day
- urinary urgencythe inability to delay urination
- urinary incontinencethe accidental loss of urine
- nocturiafrequent urination at night
- trouble beginning a urine stream
- weak or interrupted urine stream
- blockage of urine
- urine that has an unusual color or odor
- pain after ejaculation or during urination
Different prostate problems may have similar symptoms. For example, one man with prostatitis and another with BPH may both experience urinary urgency. Sometimes symptoms for the same prostate problem differ among individuals. For example, one man with BPH may have trouble beginning a urine stream, while another may experience nocturia. A man in the early stages of prostate cancer may have no symptoms at all. Because of this confusing array of symptoms, a thorough medical exam and testing are vital.
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Guidelines For Urgent Referral
According to the NCCP guidelines, you should ideally get an appointment within 4 weeks if you have certain symptoms. The symptoms are:
- Abnormalities in your prostate that your GP can feel during a rectal examination
- A PSA test that is considered high for your age
- A borderline PSA test, followed by a repeat test 6 weeks later that shows the level is rising
- A raised PSA reading, together with other symptoms that may be linked to prostate cancer
The symptoms that the guidelines suggest GPs should also consider are:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Low back pain or other bone pain
- Blood in the urine
- Problems getting an erection
The guidelines say that your GP should offer to do a rectal examination and a PSA test if you have these symptoms.
What Research Has Been Done To Study Prostate Cancer Screening
Several randomized clinical trials of prostate cancer screening have been carried out. One of the largest is the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, which NCI conducted to determine whether certain screening tests can help reduce the numbers of deaths from several common cancers. In the prostate portion of the trial, the PSA test and DRE were evaluated for their ability to decrease a mans chances of dying from prostate cancer.
The PLCO investigators found that men who underwent annual prostate cancer screening had a higher incidence of prostate cancer than men in the control group but the same rate of deaths from the disease . Overall, the results suggest that many men were treated for prostate cancers that would not have been detected in their lifetime without screening. Consequently, these men were exposed unnecessarily to the potential harms of treatment.
A second large trial, the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer , compared prostate cancer deaths in men randomly assigned to PSA-based screening or no screening. As in the PLCO, men in ERSPC who were screened for prostate cancer had a higher incidence of the disease than control men. In contrast to the PLCO, however, men who were screened had a lower rate of death from prostate cancer .
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What Are Some Of The Limitations And Potential Harms Of The Psa Test For Prostate Cancer Screening
Detecting prostate cancer early may not reduce the chance of dying from prostate cancer. When used in screening, the PSA test can help detect small tumors that do not cause symptoms. Finding a small tumor, however, may not necessarily reduce a mans chance of dying from prostate cancer. Many tumors found through PSA testing grow so slowly that they are unlikely to threaten a mans life. Detecting tumors that are not life-threatening
that requires treatment.
If Screening Test Results Arent Normal
If you are screened for prostate cancer and your initial blood PSA level is higher than normal, it doesnt always mean that you have prostate cancer. Many men with higher than normal PSA levels do not have cancer. Still, further testing will be needed to help find out what is going on. Your doctor may advise one of these options:
- Waiting a while and having a second PSA test
- Getting another type of test to get a better idea of if you might have cancer
- Getting a prostate biopsy to find out if you have cancer
Its important to discuss your options, including their possible pros and cons, with your doctor to help you choose one you are comfortable with. Factors that might affect which option is best for you include:
- Your age and overall health
- The likelihood that you have prostate cancer
- Your own comfort level with waiting or getting further tests
If your initial PSA test was ordered by your primary care provider, you may be referred to a urologist for this discussion or for further testing.
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Questions To Think About Before Having A Psa Test
To help you make your decision, you could think about the following questions:
- What would you do if your PSA level is high?
- What would you do if further tests find that you have an early prostate cancer?
- What difference will it make for you to know about an early prostate cancer?
Before you decide whether to have the PSA test, you may want to talk to your GP about it. You can also call our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00. They can discuss the options with you and send you more information.
What Is The Psa Test
Prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, is a protein produced by normal, as well as malignant, cells of the prostate gland. The PSA test measures the level of PSA in a mans blood. For this test, a blood sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis. The results are usually reported as nanograms of PSA per milliliter of blood.
The blood level of PSA is often elevated in men with prostate cancer, and the PSA test was originally approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1986 to monitor the progression of prostate cancer in men who had already been diagnosed with the disease. In 1994, FDA approved the use of the PSA test in conjunction with a digital rectal exam to test asymptomatic men for prostate cancer. Men who report prostate symptoms often undergo PSA testing to help doctors determine the nature of the problem.
In addition to prostate cancer, a number of benign conditions can cause a mans PSA level to rise. The most frequent benign prostate conditions that cause an elevation in PSA level are prostatitis and benign prostatic hyperplasia . There is no evidence that prostatitis or BPH leads to prostate cancer, but it is possible for a man to have one or both of these conditions and to develop prostate cancer as well.
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Ask About Screening For Bowel Cancer
Early detection of bowel cancer greatly improves chances of successful treatment. Your risk of bowel cancer increases with age. If you are over age 50, you should be tested for bowel cancer every two years.
The National Bowel Screening Program, using FOBT, is offered free to all Australians aged 50-74 every two years. Cancer Council urges all eligible Australians to participate. Screening kits usually arrive within six months of your birthday.
Some people have known risk factors that put them at increased risk. If you do, your doctor will talk to you about regular surveillance.
Further Tests For Prostate Cancer
If results of the PSA test or the DRE are abnormal, a urologist will likely recommend a biopsy, where small samples of tissue are removed from the prostate and examined.
If cancer is diagnosed, other tests may be used to check the progression of the cancer, including:
- magnetic resonance imaging scan of the prostate – often done before a biopsy
- bone scan – to check whether or not cancer cells have spread to the bones
- computed tomography scan – a specialised x-ray
- pelvic lymph node dissection – a nearby lymph node is removed and examined to check whether or not cancer cells have entered the lymphatic system .
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What To Think About
- When combined with a digital rectal examination, the prostate-specific antigen test may increase the chance of finding prostate cancer. To learn more, see the topic Digital Rectal Examination .
- If your PSA level is high, you may need a prostate biopsy. Your doctor will consider:
- Results of your digital rectal examination.
- Results of any PSA tests you have had in the past. If your PSA level gets higher in a short amount of time, follow-up testing may be recommended.
- Your age and health.
- The risks of more tests and treatments.
How Are Researchers Trying To Improve The Psa Test
Scientists are investigating ways to improve the PSA test to give doctors the ability to better distinguish cancerous from benign conditions and slow-growing cancers from fast-growing, potentially lethal cancers. None has been proven to decrease the risk of death from prostate cancer. Some of the methods being studied include:
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When Should You Check Your Psa Levels
Here are some guidelines on when you should check your PSA levels:
Under age 40: PSA screening is not recommended.
Aged 40-54: Routine PSA screening is not recommended.
Under age 55 at high risk: : The decision for screening should be individualized.
Aged 55-69: Talk to your health care provider about the benefits and risks of prostate cancer testing.
Aged 70 plus: Routine PSA screening is not recommended But men over 70 should talk to their health care provider about prostate cancer testing if they have any concerns.
Source: American Urology Association
PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen, a substance produced in the prostate. PSA levels are determined through a blood test. Elevated PSA levels may suggest the presence of prostate cancer. The test is not, however, prostate cancer specific.
It is essential that those who are thinking about prostate cancer screening are aware that the full screening involves a rectal examination by a physician who will evaluate the feel and texture of the prostate gland as well as a blood test that measures prostate specific antigen.
I often talk to my patients about the known limitations of PSA testing, particularly the fact that it is not cancer specific.
However, as prostate cancer is the most common cancer, and the number two cancer killer, of men, it is important to talk to your doctor if you have any symptoms of prostate cancer as well as to understand , PSA screening generally, and the shortcomings of the test.
How Often Should Men Have A Prostate Screening
A prostate screening is extremely important to have regularly. Because, without them, a mans health is at a high risk of developing prostate cancer. Knowing how often prostate screenings should be had can be helpful to those men who are not sure.
A mans health is just as important to maintain as a womans. But most people are under the assumption that womens health needs more attention. However, that is not true. Men are at risk of developing prostate cancer, and it can become very problematic if not addressed.
Keep reading to find out how often a man should have a prostate screening.
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Men: Cancer Screening Exams By Age
These exams are for men at average risk of cancer.
Take this checklist to your next doctors appointment. Your doctor can help you develop a more tailored screening plan if needed.
These exams are for men at average risk of cancer. If you believe you may be more likely to develop cancer because of your personal or family medical history, visit our screening guidelines page to learn about exams for men at increased risk.
- Beginning at age 40, you should speak with your doctor about the benefits and limitations of prostate screening.
- If you choose prostate cancer screening, you should get a digital rectal exam and PSA test every year starting at age 45 to check for prostate cancer if you are African American or have a family history of prostate cancer.
- If you choose prostate cancer screening, you should get a digital rectal exam and PSA test every year to check for prostate cancer
- Colonoscopy every 10 years or virtual colonoscopy every 5 years to check for colorectal cancer
Age 76 and older
If youre age 76 to 85, your doctor can help you decide if you should continue screening. MD Anderson does not recommend cancer screening for men age 85 and older.
Regardless of your age, practice awareness. This means you should be familiar with your body so youll notice changes and report them to your doctor without delay.