Health Watch

New Prostate Cancer Tests

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Just last month actor Ryan O-Neal and billionaire Warren Buffet revealed they have prostate cancer. They're among 225 thousand men diagnosed with it every year. It kills 30-thousand men annually, but better testing to detect it earlier could save a lot of lives.

Prostate cancer is the number two killer of men, second only to lung cancer. 1 in 6 men will get it and 1 in 36 will die from it. Those numbers haven't increased or decreased in the last ten years, but how the cancer's treated has changed.

"Mine was a more aggressive form or appeared to be a more aggressive form of prostate cancer," said Dan Zenka, a prostate cancer patient.

A PSA test is what most men get to determine their risk, but Dan Zenka found out he had prostate cancer through the next generation of tests, a pro PSA test. PSA is found in the blood. High levels could indicate cancer. The new test measures three different levels in the blood. Combined with annual biopsies it was 70 percent accurate in singling out tumors.

"It can give you a more accurate estimate of whether or not he has prostate cancer, and whether or not the prostate cancer is one of those that would be potentially life threatening," William Catalona, M.D., a urologist at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, said.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Michigan believe a new urine test is more accurate.

"PSA, you have to understand, stands for prostate specific antigen. It actually is not specific for cancer," John T. Wei, M.D, MS, a urologist at the University of Michigan Health System, explained. "When your doctor says it abnormal, it could be because you have an enlarged prostate, prostate inflammation or cancer."

The urine test works by identifying gene fusions that occur when pieces of two chromosomes stick together. These fusions are common in prostate cancer. The urine test identified 80 percent of patients with it.

"It's going to make my life easier, if not put me out of business," Dr. Wei said.

Right now, the pro PSA test is waiting for FDA approval. It's already approved in Europe. Meanwhile, the American cancer society says at age 50, men should start to talk to their doctor about the pros and cons of testing, but African American men or men who have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before the age of 65, should be tested at 45.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Katie Vloet
Lead Public Relations Representative
University of Michigan Health System
kgazella@med.umich.edu

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