Some men are more likely to develop prostate cancer, in many cases due to high genetic risk. Recent studies have shown that incorporating this factor into the referral process for prostate cancer could allow for earlier diagnosis. Additionally, it comes with the benefit of avoiding unnecessary biopsies in men at a lower risk of prostate cancer. Since prostate biopsies are quite invasive procedures, if they aren’t necessary it’s good to avoid them.
Doctors incorporating genetic risk into the referral process would result in men at higher risk getting a fast-track for diagnosis. The earlier we can catch cancer the better, since at these stages there are more options for treatment and less invasive options may still be available.
The benefits of incorporating genetic risk
Including genetic risk of cancer could improve referrals for those who need it most. It can also reduce the need for invasive biopsies for men at a lower risk. Having a more efficient referral process for diagnosis could result in earlier diagnosis for more men at a higher risk.
Prostate cancer is responsible for a fourth of cancer cases in men, more or less. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, in the US it is the second most common cancer in men second only to skin cancer.
So we know it’s a common and pervasive problem for men. We also know that prostate cancer caught at early stages can double a man’s survival rate. This is if we compare it to an advanced case’s average survival rate of 5 years.
Another important factor to consider is that prostate cancer symptoms can be easily misdiagnosed. This means doctors may discover prostate cancer cases later, leading to more severe or even deadly cases. Whereas, if we manage to catch cases earlier, researchers estimate survival rates could grow as much as 14%.
How could taking genetics into account affect referral rates?
In the UK for instance, general medical practitioners refer around 800,000 men suspected of prostate cancer annually. Researchers have predicted that by taking genetic risk into consideration 160,000 men may receive an earlier diagnosis. And that 320,000 of these men could avoid unnecessary invasive investigations. The data implies that we could be saving more lives and avoiding uncomfortable procedures for men who don’t need them.
Although testing for PSA levels in the blood is crucial to test for prostate cancer. Often times they lead to false positives. In fact, as few as 1 out of 3 men that test positive for high PSA levels actually have prostate cancer.
Therefore, this new research and methodology could prove crucial for more accurate prostate cancer testing. Leading to a more efficient allocation of resources to those who actually need them.
Check our resources section for further information. Where you can also find inspiration from success and survival stories. Or we can help you connect with a prostate cancer survivor.
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