March 25, 2011
The wrong way to find prostate cancer
As you may know, I'm really down on the PSA test. I debunked the PSA as a marker for prostate cancer years before medical science did. Yes, it's great for detecting inflammation. But not for cancer. Some doctors still consider the PSA's "rate of rise" a better detector of cancer than just one score. But is it?
The "rate of rise" works like this: Say your PSA is 1.0 this year and 1.1 the next year. Your doctor won't think much about it. But if it goes to 2.0 the next year? That when your urologist wants you in his office quickly for a dangerous and largely useless biopsy.
Researchers recently studied the rate of rise as a predictor. And what they found is not too good!
Sloan-Kettering doctors conducted the study on 5,519 men. They gave these men prostate biopsies (ouch!!) regardless of their PSA score. Then, they compared their results to their PSA levels. The researchers found that so long as the PSA remained relatively low (say less than 4.0), a rising PSA was NOT a good indicator for the development of cancer.
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Action to take: If your PSA score is below 4, never submit to a biopsy. It's a waste of time and money — and it's very painful. Let's hope that this slows down the useless puncturing of the prostate and also the useless conventional treatments for prostate cancer as well.
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Ref: J NCI, March 3, 2011.