Prostate Cancer Diagnostic Techniques
Using the DRE and PSA test chart for prostate cancer is not enough to diagnose the malignancy because they only establish the presence of prostate specific antigen markers in blood of the patient. However, they go a long way to signal the need for a biopsy that more or less concludes the diagnosis after examining the prostate cells under a microscope.
The Direct Rectal Examination (DRE) confirms that there is a tumor, but the tumor may well be benign; the PSA confirms that there is a disease or infection, but it may well be a benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH). The biopsy is simply the best way to know, even though other tests also exist that aid in the accuracy of diagnosis, especially with respect to prostate cancer staging.
Biopsy for Prostate Cancer
The doctor or their assistant inserts needles into the prostate to extract small samples of tissue, usually with the aid of ultrasound imaging. There may be some pain or discomfort while this is happening, but it is not intense and it never lasts for very long. As a matter of fact, you can be in and out of the hospital in no time at all within the same day. The biopsy will prove once and for all if the prostate cancer suspicions are true, and then will come the staging.
Prostate Cancer Staging ? Gleason Grading and Scores
Cancer cells look different than prostate gland cells in shape and appearance even under the most varied of conditions, and they don’t reproduce and die in the same way. Oncologists and prostate cancer specialists use the degree to which cancerous prostate cells vary from normal cells to determine the stage or grade of the cancer. “High-grade” tumor cells therefore are those that have mutated so much that they differ entirely from the normal cells, while the low grade ones still look only a bit mutated. They are awarded scores on the Gleason scale that runs from 1 to 5, the lower scores being for cells that are nearly normal, and the higher scores representing cells that are not normal.
The first most common pattern of mutated cells gets a grade number, as does the second most common one after it, and when these two grades are added, the Gleason score for this particular prostate cancer is established, which will in turn predict the aggressiveness of the disease and how it will behave. This likewise determines how aggressive treatment has to be to arrest and cure the cancer as much as is possible.
There are a number of other diagnostic techniques that are still currently under investigation. Non-invasive approaches to detect prostate tumors are being explored, and adenoviruses are being modified to transfect tumor cells, especially those with harmless but distinct genes (e.g. luciferase). But these things have to begin with animal testing and LNCaP models; research is yet to graduate to human testing for the moment.
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