Before we tackle the medical advances in improving prostate cancer screenings by reducing their harmful effects, let’s take a look at some basic facts.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. It often grows slowly, so symptoms may not appear for years. However, screening tests can detect prostate cancer early when it’s easier to treat successfully.
It’s also the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in men, after lung cancer.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that more than 2 million American men have had a prostate biopsy and around 200,000 were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 alone.
A patient’s healthcare provider may recommend tests, such as ultrasound, MRI, and biopsies, to detect prostate cancer. Healthcare providers may also recommend other tests, such as PSA tests.
Doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating prostate cancer analyze the results. Then review the results with their patients. Together they will decide on a treatment plan that’s right for him.
Harms and side effects of screening for prostate cancer
Although it is incredibly important to get screenings for prostate cancer, the tests themselves can be harmful to patients and cause side effects. Overdiagnosing and over-treating patients who may not have malignant prostate cancer can be an issue. Hence, why it’s important for patients to talk over results and symptoms with their doctors. In order to assess the risks of screening and treatment.
- For instance, false positives and false negatives.
The PSA test is not a perfect test. It can give you a positive result when there’s no cancer. Conversely, it can give you a negative result when there is cancer. This means that if your doctor recommends that you have the PSA test, and it comes back negative, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is okay. It just means that there isn’t enough evidence yet. It’s too early to make conclusions about whether or not there’s any problem with the prostate gland at all.
- Biopsies and treatments based on false positives/negatives from screening tests often lead to unnecessary biopsies, treatments, and hospital visits.
Experts call these “overdiagnosis” and “overtreatment.” Experts estimate that between 30% and 50% of cancers found through screening turn out not be life-threatening. They’re called indolent, meaning they don’t require treatment at all.
Medical advances are helping doctors better diagnose and treat prostate cancer
Advances in medical technology are helping doctors better diagnose and treat prostate cancer:
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing is a blood test that measures the amount of PSA in the body, which may indicate the presence of prostate cancer.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses strong magnetic fields to create images of structures within the body. This procedure can detect tumors that may not be seen on other imaging tests such as X-rays or CT scans.
- In addition to these tests, doctors may also use a transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) to examine the prostate tissue. A TRUS involves inserting a thin tube into the rectum and using sound waves to create images of the prostate gland.
Technological and medical advances in these fields and screenings are reducing the unnecessary harmful effects they have on men. Both because the tests are becoming more accurate and precise. Essentially this means, a test like a biopsy will cause less harm to the prostate gland itself.
Additionally, PSA tests being more accurate means there will be fewer false results. If these tests find nothing wrong, then patients may feel that their lives have been disrupted unnecessarily. Additionally, there is the risk that treatments may cause side effects such as impotence or incontinence; in some cases, these side effects may be permanent even after treatment has ceased.
Check our resources section for further information. Where we can even help you connect with a prostate cancer survivor.
If you have any questions, or just want to talk, call us at our toll-free hotline: 1(833)HEAL-MEN. You are not alone in this journey. We are here to help guide and support you through it, every step of the way.