For the past 20 years the PSA has been the metric for screening for prostate cancer. More recently the U.S. Preventive Services Task Forces issue a recommendation against the use of PSA-based screening for prostate cancer in all men because PSA screening contributed to over treatment and over diagnosis of prostate cancer.
The prostate health index (PHI) was approved by the FDA in 2012 as a blood test that calculates a score based on the combination of three separate tests” PSA, free PSA and p2PSA. These simple blood tests will help determine the probability of finding prostate cancer if you have a prostate biopsy.
PHI should be considered for men with PSA levels >3, who have not had a prostate biopsy as well as for me who had one prior negative prostate biopsy and who might be considered at higher risk for prostate cancer.
The PHI helps to distinguish between prostate cancer and benign prostate diseases like benign enlargement of the prostate gland and prostate infection. The PHI improves the diagnosis of prostate cancer with men who have a PSA between 2-10 where 4.0 is the cut off currently considered for men who should have additional studies, evaluations, or a prostate biopsy.
The PHI enhances the ability to detect prostate cancer in men with a normal physical examination and in men whose PSA is between 2-10. The PHI has helped to decrease the number of men who are subjected to a prostate biopsy, which leads to over diagnosis and over treatment.
Also the PHI can be used in men who have received a diagnosis of prostate cancer and have been placed on an active surveillance protocol, which means no treatment but regular examinations with a digital rectal exam and a blood test. Men followed on the active surveillance protocols who have a low PHI score can be followed without treatment. On the other hand, those with an elevated PHI score may be advised to have a repeat biopsy and consider for definitive treatment. Thus the PHI helps the patient and the doctor determine if the man has more aggressive prostate cancer and needs additional treatment.
Bottom Line: Prostate cancer is most common cancer in men after skin cancer and the second most common cause of death after lung cancer. Now there are blood tests like the PHI that help fine-tune the diagnosis and help men decide to participate in close follow up or proceed to a prostate biopsy.