Prostate cancer screening is effective, but it isn’t without its share of problems. The standard Prostate-Specific Antigen blood test, for example, can help doctors see if there might be a cause to explore the possibilities further. Elevated PSA levels may indicate the presence of cancer, after all. These tests sometimes produce false positives, which is why biopsies are often performed to follow up. The problem, some doctors say, is that a particular form of biopsy, called the TRUS, also has its share of false negatives. That means men who might, in fact, have the disease are told they have nothing to worry about.
Some doctors in Great Britain are so concerned about the potential for false negatives, they are calling for an overhaul of the screening procedure. They say instead of the TRUS, which is also associated with a risk of infection, men should be given something called a template biopsy with a MRI conducted beforehand to determine the best sample locations. The template enables biopsy cores to be taken from all regions of the prostate. The TRUS is limited to the part of the prostate closest to the rectum.
While template biopsies are not widely offered, doctors in the U.K. say they should be. This procedure is better at detecting cancer cells and also lowers infection risk.
Men who experience especially high PSA levels should speak with their healthcare providers about the next step in determining if they do, indeed, have cancer. Not all high PSA tests result in the finding of cancer. Biopsies are generally performed to serve as the definitive marker. Should a TRUS procedure be performed and an all-clear given with continued PSA results elevated, men may also want to discuss other detection options with their healthcare providers.
Prostate cancer is diagnosed in more than 200,000 American men each year. An estimated 27,000 die from the disease. Early detection can greatly lower a man’s risk of fatal complications.