Archive for the ‘PSA’ Category

The New Skinny On Prostate Cancer Screening With the PSA Test

April 11, 2017

Prostate cancer remains one of the most common cancers in men and is the second most common cause of death from cancer in men.  (Lung cancer is still leading the list)  The American Cancer Society projects more than 161,000 new cases this year in the U.S., with about 26,730 deaths each year.  Prostate cancer accounted for 4.4% of all cancer deaths in the United States last year.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent and influential panel of experts, published new guidelines in early April 2017 for screening for prostate cancer for the first time in five years.

The new recommendations: Men ages 55 to 69 should “make an individualized decision about prostate cancer screening with their clinician.” That’s updated from a blanket recommendation in 2012 for no routine screening at any age.

The task force also recommends that those men older than 70 shouldn’t undergo PSA screening.

Now doctors are saying that the older recommendation in 2012, i.e., not to screen for prostate cancer likely resulted in deaths that could have been avoided..

The PSA test is a simple blood test that determines levels of the prostate-specific antigen protein, and elevated PSA can be a sign of prostate cancer. But elevated PSA can also be caused by other conditions, like inflammation of the prostate or benign enlargement of the prostate gland.

The risk of potential harm of over-diagnosis has led to confusing recommendations for screening. Treatment for prostate cancer, including removal of the prostate and radiation, is associated with the side effects of incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

False positives can lead to unnecessary further testing or treatment, and many cases of prostate cancer are slow-moving and require watchful waiting rather than immediate treatment.  This means that the men with slow growing, non-aggressive cancer can be followed with a digital rectal exam, frequent PSA testing, and perhaps additional prostate biopsies.

So how useful is PSA screening? According to the New England Journal of Medicine, studies imply that 1 prostate cancer death is averted per 1,000 men screened several times each, and followed for 10 to 15 years.

On the flip side, the authors reported, data show about 35 over-diagnosed cases per 1,000 men screened.

Some groups are at higher risk for prostate cancer, including African-American men and those with a family history of the disease.

Bottom Line: It is my recommendation to my patients 55-69 they have a discussion with their physician and weigh the benefits vs. the harms of PSA testing.  With that discussion the men can make the best choice for themselves, together with their doctor.

The Skinny On Screening for Prostate Cancer

December 29, 2016

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men (after skin cancer), according to the American Cancer Society. It is the second most common cause of death in following lung cancer and causes nearly 30,000 deaths annually in the United States.  The good news is that often prostate cancer can be treated successfully, especially when caught in its early stages.   More than 2 million men in America count themselves as prostate cancer survivors, according to the American Cancer Society.

At the present time screening for prostate cancer is controversial in the medical profession.  There are physicians who believe that testing all men for prostate cancer outweighs the benefit because it may find some very slow growing cancers in some men that could be left alone without any negative consequences. My personal opinion is that prostate cancer screening should be done but requires education and a decision made between doctor and patient.

My belief is that if prostate cancer is detected early, it has a favorable  prognosis. If men ask me what are the early signs of prostate cancer, the answer is that there are NO early signs of prostate cancer when it is confined to the prostate gland.  That is why men need to have an examination or the digital rectal examination and a PSA test.

Risk factors help determine who should be screened when

The protocol starts by evaluating men for their risk factors for developing prostate cancer. Risk factors include: age (after age 50 risk of prostate cancer rises rapidly); race (men of African-American and Caribbean descent are at higher risk); and family history (men who have a father, brother, or uncle with prostate cancer are at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer and should be screened on a regular basis) Men should be screened every year until they reach age 70 or 75. For most men who reach age 70 and all their screening tests are normal, the chances of their developing a cancer that would impact their well-being or their longevity is really low.

Managing the elevated PSA test

If your screening detects a possible cancer, your doctor will order a biopsy. This is done in the office under a local anesthesia and takes 10-15 minutes.  If the biopsy detects prostate cancer, then the next step is to determine the aggressiveness of the cancer or how likely it is to spread or grow.  For men with low-risk tumors that are not going to put their health or longevity at risk, I will often recommend surveillance, which means regular testing of the PSA and a follow up biopsy in 12-18 months.  As long as the PSA remains stable and there is no evidence of escalation of the cancer, then these men can be safely followed and only treated if the cancer appears to be growing or the PSA is steadily increasing.  Men with more aggressive tumors may need surgery and\or radiation. You and your doctor will make the best treatment decisions for you together.

Bottom Line:  Prostate cancer is a common cancer and can easily be diagnosed with prostate cancer screening.  Not all men need to be screened, but if you are between 50 and 70 years of age, speak to your doctor about the benefits of screening and make an informed decision if screening is right for you.

PSA Testing for Prostate Cancer-To Screen or Not to Screen That is the Question

September 28, 2016

Today, nothing is more confusing for men than the concept of screening for prostate cancer.  Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, following lung cancer, and there are 250,000 men each year diagnosed with prostate cancer and causes nearly 30,000 deaths a year.  About one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.

But some prostate cancers develop slowly, and, as the disease is more common in elderly men, most men with prostate cancer die with it and not from it. Thus, screening, diagnosis and treatment of the disease are controversial.

There is no consensus about prostate cancer screening as early diagnosis can be associated with very bothersome side effects such as erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence.  Also screening has not been universally shown to increase survival or decrease the death rate from prostate cancer.  This article will discuss the pros and cons of PSA screening for men.

Men who opt for screening undergo a digital rectal exam and a blood draw to measure a chemical called PSA or prostate specific antigen. This level of PSA can be increased in men with prostate cancer. Other conditions may cause the increase in the PSA such as benign enlargement of the prostate gland and prostate infections.

The best way to detect an early potentially deadly case is to collect yearly PSA tests over three to five years so trends can be assessed.

I like most other urologists are concerned about over treatment of prostate cancer — in other words, being too aggressive in using surgery or radiation when a small amount of potentially slow-growing cancer is found on a biopsy.

The federal government has also become concerned about this issue. A large medical research trial called the Prostate Lung Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Study released results from 2009 showing no benefit from screening for prostate cancer when comparing a large group of unscreened men to a large group of aggressively screened men.

Researchers across the country are assessing the effects of the USPSTF recommendations on prostate cancer mortality since 2012. In a recent study from Northwestern University in Chicago, researchers found a significant increase in the cases of advanced prostate cancer already spread to other parts of the body from 2004 to 2013. As a result we could be missing serious cancers because of decreased screening.

Prostate cancer also has a hereditary predilection and men with a father, brother, cousin, or uncle should consider having screening around age 40.  This also applies to African-American men who have a greater risk of prostate cancer than Caucasian men and should also have testing after age 40.

My best advice is to ask your doctor\urologist about the decision to undergo prostate cancer screening.

Tomatoes and Not Potatoes May Help Prevent Prostate Cancer

July 8, 2016

For many years I have been focused on nutrition and various urologic diseases, especially prostate cancer.  Although the relationship between prostate cancer and diet is certainly a consideration, the use of tomatoes may be one of the strongest preventive options a man can take to avoid prostate cancer.

There are many health advantages of eating more tomatoes, which includes a lower risk of prostate cancer and other cancers as well. While the good news is Americans eat more tomatoes and tomato products than any other non-starchy vegetable, about 90% of adult men fail to consume the 2.5 cups of vegetables per day recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Tomatoes contain a high antioxidant content, specifically lycopene. Lycopene has been the subject of many research studies regarding its protective effect against prostate cancer.

In men with prostate cancer, lycopene supplementation has been shown to be safe and tolerated well in doses up to 120 mg per day for up to one year. Toxicity is generally very mild, with diarrhea as a possible side effect at very high doses.

There appears to be a protective effect of tomatoes and tomato products on the prevention of prostate cancer as well as improvements in biomarkers of disease status, including the PSA levels.

A unique characteristic of tomatoes is that unlike the nutrients in other fresh fruits and vegetables, lycopene is more bioavailable after tomatoes are cooked and processed. This fact opens up even more possibilities for individuals to enjoy the benefits of lycopene.

According to the US Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, ½ cup of tomato paste contains 18.84 mg of lycopene, while an equal amount of tomato sauce has 17.12 mg, spaghetti sauce has 15.82 mg, and tomato juice has 10.88 mg of lycopene.  One-half cup of raw tomatoes, however, contains only 2.32 mg of lycopene. Non-tomato products that contain lycopene include watermelon (1/2 cup has 3.44 mg) and grapefruit (1/2 fruit contains 1.75 mg).

More recent hypotheses have looked at the advantages of whole tomatoes, which are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, fiber, and potassium, and identified other protective elements beyond lycopene. Vitamins A and C are potent antioxidants, while fiber has been shown to reduce cholesterol, and potassium is helpful in lowering blood pressure and possibly reducing bone loss.

Experts in nutrition and cancer note that the preponderance of evidence suggests that consumption of whole tomatoes and tomato products should be preferentially recommended because of greater consistency of documented positive outcomes with the whole tomato and the concomitant supply of other important essential nutrients.

Given that tomatoes and tomato products are already dietary favorites, increasing their consumption can achieve several goals, including reduction in the risk of prostate cancer and other diseases, and helping Americans achieve the recommended daily intake of 2.5 cups of vegetables.

Bottom Line: Prostate cancer is the most common cancer (besides skin cancer) in men and the second most cause of death in men following lung cancer.  Men can be easily diagnosed with a PSA test and a digital rectal exam.  Man can also decrease their risk of prostate cancer by consuming lycopene, an antioxidant, which is plentiful in tomatoes.

Smelling Prostate Cancer

February 19, 2016

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in older men with nearly one quarter of a million new cases discovered each year.  It is the second most cause of death in men with over 25,000 deaths each year.  Now there is a new diagnostic device that can detect prostate cancer in men’s urine.

A new device, Odoreader, was developed in the UK which can be helpful in disgnosing prostate cancer by identifying the unique odor in the urine of men with prostate cancer.

The researchers looked at a total of 155 men of which 58 had been diagnosed with prostate cancer by evaluating their urine with the Odoreader. The researchers found that Odoreader was able to successfully identify patterns of volatile compounds from urine samples, and detect those that indicate cancer.

Unfortunately at the present time there is no accurate test for prostate cancer. The standard used to day is the PSA blood test. The PSA test is not specific for prostate cancer and may also detect other prostate conditions such as benign enlargement of the prostate as well as prostate infections. The PSA test indicators can sometimes result in unnecessary biopsies, resulting in psychological toll, risk of infection from the procedure and even sometimes missing cancer cases. This new testing procedure can detect cancer in a non-invasive way by smelling the disease in men’s urine.

The Odoreader could pave the pathway for a new detection technique of prostate cancer, making invasive diagnostic procedures like a prostate biopsy less necessary and potentially saving the lives of many men who fight the disease.

Bottom Line: Prostate cancer is a prevalent medical problem affecting thousands of American men.  Now there is a new technique for the diagnosis of this disease which is non-invasive, accurate, and will help men avoid unnecessary diagnostic studies and perhaps unnecessary surgery.

Preventive Health For All Men

January 18, 2016

Do you know that most men spend more time taking care of their cars or planning a vacation than they do taking care of their health?  In the U.S., women live 5-7 years longer than men.  I believe one of the reasons is that women seek out regular medical care throughout their entire lives.  They see a obstetrician during child bearing years; they get regular mammograms; they obtain routine PAP smears and other preventive health measures for their entire lives.  Men, on the other hand, stop seeing a doctor around age 18 and never see the inside of a medical office until middle age.  During that time they can have high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes, and prostate diseases.

But there are some things men, in particular, should keep in mind when it comes to maintaining their health:

Heart disease and cholesterol

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 200,000 people die each year from preventable heart disease and strokes, with men being significantly more at risk than women.

Men should begin screenings for these issues in their mid-30s.

Annual health examinations should begin at around age 50.  This should include a test for anemia, a cholesterol level, a chest x-ray if the man is a smoker, a PSA test for prostate cancer, and a blood pressure determination.

For those men with an elevated cholesterol level, they can lower the level by adhereing to  a healthy diet consisting less heavy in red meats and carbohydrates, and limiting alcohol consumption, i.e., 2 drinks\day. Men of all ages should also continue to stay physically active by incorporating aerobic activities, i.e., any activity that increases the heart rate for 20 minutes 3-4 times a week, into their lifestyle, as well as strength training.

Prostate health

There is some debate among health care professionals about when men should begin screening for prostate cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the CDC recommend against screening unless men begin experiencing the symptoms associated with prostate cancer. These include frequent urination, especially at night, pain during urination and difficulty fully emptying the bladder.

Prostate screening can begin earlier in life, around age 40, if there is a high risk for prostate cancer, such as family history, or bothersome lower urinary tract symptoms.

Testosterone

As men age, lowering testosterone levels can become another area men should monitor.  Significantly low testosterone levels can predispose a man to low bone mineral density with subsequent bone fractures, erectile dysfunction (impotence) and low energy levels.

Testing for testosterone levels is done through a blood test.

Bottom Line: these are the minimal preventive care that all men should consider around age 30-40.  Remember if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, may apply to your car, but not to your body.  You need to take preventive measures with your body just as you do with your automobile.

Prostate Biopsy Negative? What’s Next?

November 21, 2015

There are over 1 million men who have a prostate biopsy each year.  Many of the biopsies are negative.  What can a man do who has an elevated PSA level and a negative biopsy to be certain that he doesn’t have prostate cancer and avoid having a second biopsy?

Lots of controversy surrounds the standard PSA (prostate-specific antigen) screening test for prostate cancer, which is unreliable and not specific for the disease. This uncertainty has prompted many men to ask, “Is there a better test for PSA?” Fortunately, there are options which, while they don’t replace the current PSA test, can provide significantly more reliable, actionable information.

The PSA test involves a blood draw and measuring the level of the blood protein, prostate specific antigen. Currently, men whose PSA test levels are between 4 ng/mL and 10 ng/mL typically are told they should consider getting a prostate biopsy. However, an elevated PSA can be caused by many different benign conditions such as benign enlargement of the prostate gland, a prostate infection or simply lifestyle habits, which means a biopsy would be an unnecessary invasive procedure.

Why we need more accurate testing?

Approximately 1.3 million prostate biopsies are performed annually, and less than one third of them reveal cancer. While that sounds like good news on one hand, on the other hand it means that two thirds of those biopsies may not have been necessary and/or these men have negative biopsy results but other clinical risk factors for prostate cancer such as a family member who has prostate cancer or being an African-American man who have a slightly greater risk for prostate cancer than a Caucasian man.

If you have been in this situation, you probably know how frustrating and confusing it can be. What should you do? Have a repeat biopsy or choose to have more tests? The uncertainty of having a hidden prostate cancer can lead men to get repeat biopsies, which can be associated with an increased risk of infection, hospitalization, emotional trauma, and significant costs.

Fortunately, some progress is being made in the realm of better testing for prostate cancer and in determining whether a prostate biopsy is necessary. In this blog I will discuss the PCA3 test that may be helpful and prevent additional biopsies and additional psychological anxiety.

PCA3 Test

PCA3 is an acronym for Prostate CAncer gene 3. Prostate cells have PCA3 genes that are responsible for making this prostate cancer-specific protein. Prostate cancer cells produce higher levels of PCA3 than do healthy cells, and when the level of PCA3 protein is high, it leaks into the urine, where it can be measured. Unlike the PSA test, PCA3 is not affected by benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) or other noncancerous prostate conditions such as prostatitis.

To take the PCA3 test, you must first have a digital rectal examination (DRE), which stimulates the PCA3 to enter the urine. Then you must immediately provide a urine sample. Typically, it takes 1 to 2 weeks to obtain the results of the PCA3 test. For diagnostic purposes, the higher the PCA3 score, the more likely a man has prostate cancer. When the PCA3 score is used to help with treatment, the higher the score, the more aggressive the prostate cancer is likely to be.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the PCA3 test in 2012. Physicians can use the PCA3 score, in addition to DRE and PSA test, to help them make treatment decisions. For example, knowing a man’s PCA3 score can be helpful when:

  • Men have a family history of prostate cancer
  • Men have a positive biopsy, because their PCA3 score can provide additional information about how aggressive the cancer may be and therefore, be helpful in determining which treatment approach is best
  • Men have an elevated PSA or a suspicious DRE and are considering a prostate biopsy
  • Men have a negative result on their biopsy but the doctor is still uncertain about the presence of cancer
  • Men have a positive result on their biopsy and they and their doctor want to better understand how aggressive the cancer is
  • Men who have early, nonaggressive prostate cancer and have chosen active surveillance want to monitor any possible cancer progression

How effective is the PCA3 score in detecting prostate cancer? This question was addressed in a study involving 859 men who were scheduled to undergo a prostate biopsy. The authors found that use of the PCA3 test improved over-detection of low-grade prostate cancer and under-detection of high-grade cancer. Cost of the PCA3 test is about $450. The test is paid by most insurance companies including Medicare.

Bottom Line:  Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and the second most common cause of death in men.  The PSA test is a good screening test for men between the ages of 50 and 70.  However, there are false positive results with consequences of unnecessary prostate biopsies or may result in unnecessary repeat prostate biopsies.  The PCA3 test is helpful in identifying prostate cancer or helpful in reassuring a man that he doesn’t have prostate cancer and can avoid a repeat biopsy.  For more information, speak to your urologist.

Myths and Misinformation On Prostate Cancer

June 10, 2015

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, following lung cancer, with 250,000 new cases discovered each year. There are many areas of confusion about prostate cancer. Let me debunk a few of these myths.

Myth 1: Prostate cancer surgery will end your sex life and cause urine leakage.
Fact: Your surgeon may be able to spare the nerves that help trigger erections. Then you will probably be able to have an erection strong enough for sex again. But it may be a while. Recovery can take from 4 to 24 months, maybe longer. Younger men usually recover sooner.
If you still have trouble, ask your doctor about treatments for erectile dysfunction. Cialis, Levitra, and Viagra are common medications that can help. Your doctor will tell you if these are right for you.

Other prostate cancer treatments, such as radiation and hormone therapy, also can affect your sex life. Urine leakage may occur after surgery, but it’s usually temporary. Within a year, about 95% of men have as much bladder control as they did before surgery.

Myth 2: Only elderly men are at risk of prostate cancer.
Fact: Prostate cancer is rare for men under 40. If you are concerned, ask your doctor if you need to get tested earlier. Age isn’t the only factor. Others risk factors include:
Family history. If your father or brother had prostate cancer, your own risk doubles or triples. The more relatives you have with the disease, the greater your chances of getting it.
Race. If you are African-American, your risk of prostate cancer is higher than men of other races. Scientists do not yet know why.
You may want to discuss your risks with your doctor so you can decide together when you should be tested for prostate cancer with a screening PSA test and a digital rectal examination.

Myth 3: All prostate cancers must be treated.
Fact: You and your doctor may decide not to treat your prostate cancer. Reasons include:
Your cancer is at an early stage and is growing very slowly.
You are elderly or have other illnesses. Treatment for prostate cancer may not prolong your life and may complicate care for other health problems.
In such cases “active surveillance” may be an option to consider. This means that your doctor will regularly check you and order tests to make sure your cancer does not worsen. If your situation changes, you may decide to start treatment.

Myth 4: A high PSA score means you have prostate cancer.

Fact: Not necessarily. Your PSA could be high due to an enlarged prostate or inflammation in your prostate. The PSA score helps the doctor decide if you need more tests to check for prostate cancer. Also, your doctor is interested in your PSA score over time. Is it increasing, which could be a sign of a problem? Or, did it decrease after cancer treatment, which is great.

Myth 5: If you get prostate cancer, you will die of the disease.
Fact: You’re likely live to an old age or die of some other cause. That doesn’t mean checking for prostate cancer is not important. Most men with prostate cancer die with the cancer and not from it.

Bottom Line: I hope this article puts the perspective of prostate cancer back in its proper perspective. The diagnosis is common and help is available for most men with prostate cancer.

PSA Testing For Prostate Cancer-New Recommendations For 2015

February 16, 2015

In 2012 the United States Task Force released guidelines for PSA testing for prostate cancer that stated that no man should be tested for prostate cancer with a PSA test since there was far too many man who were over-diagnosed and who had treatment and complications from the treatment and that the cancer was so slow growing that few men would die of their prostate cancers.

Two physicians’ groups are now recommending informed decision-making when it comes to screening for prostate cancer. This is in line with American Cancer Society guidelines for early detection of prostate cancer.

The American Urological Association (AUA), the leading organization representing urologists, is recommending more moderate use of prostate cancer screening tests.

In its new guidelines, the AUA recommends that men ages 55 to 69 discuss the benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening with their doctors before deciding whether to be screened. It recommends against screening for men younger than 55 who are at average risk, as well as for men 70 and older.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) released a similar guidance statement in April 2013. The ACP says men between the ages of 50 and 69 should discuss the limited benefits and substantial harms of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test with their doctor before undergoing screening for prostate cancer. The guideline says only men between the ages of 50 and 69 who express a clear preference for screening should have the PSA test.

These new recommendations are closer to those of the American Cancer Society and several other groups issued in recent years. The American Cancer Society recommends that men discuss the possible risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening with their doctor before deciding whether to be screened. The discussion about screening should take place starting at age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and expect to live at least 10 more years. It should take place at age 40-45 for men who are at higher risk, this includes African-American men and men who have a father or brother diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The discussion with the doctor should include an explanation to men of the uncertainty of the PSA test, potential harms from the prostate biopsy and treatments such as surgery and radiation, and potential benefits of PSA screening. Use of this test should be a decision made by the individual patient in collaboration with his healthcare provider.

Some limitations of screening

Screening looks for disease in people who have no symptoms. The main goal of prostate cancer screening is to reduce deaths due to prostate cancer. But the studies showed that the number of men who avoided dying of prostate cancer because of screening after 10 to 14 years was very small.

And screening isn’t perfect. Sometimes screening misses cancer, and sometimes it finds something suspicious that turns out to be harmless. The PSA test often produces false-positive results. For example men with an enlarged prostate gland or men with an infection of the prostate gland can have an elevated PSA level. Also, there aren’t reliable tests yet to tell the difference between prostate cancer that’s going to grow so slowly it will never cause a man any problems, and dangerous or aggressive prostate cancer that will grow quickly. Treatments for prostate cancer can have urinary, bowel, and sexual side effects that may seriously affect a man’s quality of life.

Bottom Line: The PSA is not a perfect test. It is inexpensive and it is non-invasive. It is useful as a baseline test and can help a man decide if he should proceed to a biopsy or to have treatment for his cancer. A thorough discussion between the man and his doctor is the best recommendation that I can provide for all men who are concerned about prostate cancer.

Elevated PSA Linked to Shiftwork

February 16, 2015

Men who work night shifts or rotating shifts are more likely to have elevated PSA levels than men who do not.
In an analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2005-2010), Erin E. Flynn-Evans, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues found shiftworkers had a 2.6 times increased risk of an elevated PSA (4.0 ng/mL or higher) compared with non-shiftworkers after adjusting for confounders.
The researchers, who published their findings online ahead of print in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, concluded that sleep or circadian disruption is associated with elevated PSA, indicating that shiftworking men likely have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
A previous prospective cohort study of Japanese rotating-shift workers demonstrated that, compared with day workers, rotating-shift workers had a significant threefold increased risk of prostate cancer after adjusting for age, family history of prostate cancer, and other potential confounders, according to a report in the American Journal of Epidemiology (2006;164;549-555).

Take Home Message: If you are caring for a middle age man who does shift work, it is a good idea to encourage him to get a PSA and a digital rectal exam annually.