Last week we discussed new developments in prostate cancer research. Specifically, we focused on genetic research and cancer prevention. With prevention, we looked at ongoing research into specific foods with anti-carcinogenic properties and the potential benefits of vitamin D.
This week we are looking at prostate cancer research relevant to advances in early detection and staging.
Currently, one of the most common methods for detecting prostate cancer is performing a blood test. From here doctors perform an analysis to check PSA levels (prostate-specific antigen). If they are high, this can mean there is a risk of prostate cancer in the patient. However, it is not a guarantee and this test can miss certain types of cancer. And at times it detects cancers that might never need treatment.
Doctors are aware that this isn’t an infallible system and have other methods for cross-referencing and other tests they can perform. However, researchers continue to work on new potential solutions to the aforementioned issues. New strategies and methods are being developed, so lets look into some of these.
Cancer research: prostate cancer early detection
To start, doctors are already improving PSA tests, that look at total PSA levels in prostate cancer screenings. That aside, there are also a number of other tests in development that focus on other signs of tumors. Some of these are looking to be even more precise than PSA tests already:
- ConfirmMDx: Is a method that follows a prostate biopsy. The sample is tested to see if specific genes are present in its cells.
- Progensa: This test searches for high levels of PCA3 (or prostate cancer antigen 3) in a patient’s urine. It also usually follows a digital rectal exam. This is done because the process of a DRE can push cancer cells into said patient’s urine. High levels of PCA3 could indicate the presence of prostate cancer.
- Prostate Health Index: Is essentially a more comprehensive and thorough PSA test. It puts together the results of proPSA, total PSA and free PSA in a patient’s body. This helps to figure out whether there is prostate cancer, and if it is present whether it requires treatment.
- ExoDx Prostate: Also known as an EPI, observes at three different indicators in urine samples. These biomarkers can aid in assessing how aggressive a given patient’s prostate cancer is.
Although advancements in cancer research are promising, these new strategies and technologies are still far from completely replacing PSA tests. At the moment, many of these serve as a solid compliment to PSA tests, useful in specific contexts and for cross-referencing. Which in turn does lead to more accurate readings.
Advances in diagnosis
Today most doctors depend on ultrasound tests to determine the best area of the prostate from which to extract samples. However, new techniques are in development that could help perform more accurate analyses.
MRI/TRUS fusion-guided biopsy is one such technique. It combines both the advantages of MRI technology and transrectal ultrasound scans (the most common current method) to guide doctors in finding the best area of the prostate for a biopsy.
Color Doppler Ultrasound: This technique focuses on checking blood flow within the prostate gland. Researchers know that tumors usually have a more concentrated number of blood vessels around themselves than regular cells. Measuring blood flow in the relevant gland could help to make biopsies more accurate.
Although these new developments in prostate cancer research are very encouraging, being diagnosed with prostate cancer is still a very alarming and disconcerting experience.
Check our resources section for further information. Where you can also find inspiration from success and survival stories, we can even help you connect with a prostate cancer survivor or support groups.
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.