Medical Experts In Australia Discourage PSA Test For Prostate Cancer

April 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Prostate Cancer News

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PSA or prostate specific antigen is a protein usually found in the blood serum. An elevated level of this protein in the blood is associated with cancer of the prostate or other related conditions like Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia and Enlarged prostate, etc. However, many studies have shown that this test, which is a blood test, may not be completely relied upon to diagnose cancerous cells in the prostate. That being said, this test still forms a major starting point for most medical professionals to diagnose this condition in men with the risk Factors.

Now, in Australia, medical experts are refusing to accept the relevance of the PSA test for diagnosing cancer of the prostate. As a matter of fact, they only recommend such test when it has been established that the man has a family history or established symptoms of this cancer. An excerpt from a recent publication highlights these new facts on prostate cancer:

It’s one of Australia’s biggest killers, responsible for an estimated 3,500 deaths each year.

Yet prostate cancer continues to frustrate many in the medical fraternity in terms of finding a reliable detection test.

On one side of the argument, some survivors say a blood test currently available has saved their life.

On the other, Australia’s peak cancer body says there’s new research backing previous studies that the test is not justified in most cases.

Tim Jeanes reports.

TIM JEANES: Adelaide-based accountant Anthony Foundas was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 42, after two years of testing due to a family history of the disease.

He’s a big believer in the 10-minute blood test, known as the Prostate-Specific Antigen Test.

ANTHONY FOUNDAS: PSA was really the starting point for what actually ended up being diagnosed.

TIM JEANES: Do you think it saved your life?

ANTHONY FOUNDAS: I do. So I have no qualms in telling and I do tell my friends, hey guys I’ve had prostate cancer. You should be getting yourself checked at least every 12 months. Having my prostate removed ensured that I can continue to live a very healthy life. I have no qualms in telling men to actually get tested and I do tell them that.

TIM JEANES: This is even people without a family history?

ANTHONY FOUNDAS: Even without a family history I tell them the same thing.


TIM JEANES: But many in the medical profession are now recommending against the PSA test, unless a patient has symptoms, or a family history of prostate cancer.

Professor Ian Olver is the chief executive officer of the Cancer Council of Australia. He says the latest research doesn’t support widespread use of the test.

IAN OLVER: Because if you have a PSA test and it is elevated, you don’t necessarily have prostate cancer and even if you do have prostate cancer, it may not be a prostate cancer that would take your life so you may well die of something else and that is what the latest figures have shown and so it is not accurate enough to tell whose got aggressive prostate cancer and who hasn’t.

TIM JEANES: But correct me if I am wrong, there have been people whose lives have been saved by this?

IAN OLVER: Oh yes, in big randomised studies where they test half the people and don’t test the others, there is a small difference between those tested and those not but it comes at the price, in the latest review of a big European study, that you have to diagnose 37 prostate cancers to save one life and the other 36 have prostatectomies with the possibility of impotence and incontinence and it is not going to save their life so you can’t go out telling all men that they must be tested because it will save their life because in fact the majority of them, it won’t yet they’ll get the side-effects of the treatment.

TIM JEANES: Can you understand that this must be pretty confusing and alarming for an awful lot of men?

IAN OLVER: It is very confusing and we are trying to do further work, this is why these big studies are being done, to make it more definite. I mean my guess is what will happen in the end is a whole new test that is more accurate will come up and all this problem will be solved. Source

So, with this latest development, it is clearer that the controversy relating to the relevance of prostate cancer is yet to be put to rest. However, with testimonies of prostate cancer survivors like Anthony Foundas, the PSA test is still very much useful and relevance as diagnostic procedure for cancer of the prostate. The prostate Specific Antigen Test can be completed with other diagnostic methods like Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) and Biopsy to provide a more realistic diagnosis for cancer of the prostate victims.

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