Prostate Cancer Test Is Useless, Warn Scientists
By Robin Yapp
Experts increasingly believe the PSA test leads to needless treatment such as radiotherapy, when men could be monitored and live with the cancer without it ever causing a problem. Researchers studied prostate tissues collected over 20 years, from the time it first became standard to remove prostates in response to high PSA levels to the present.
Thousands of men may have had needless surgery because the test commonly used to diagnose prostate cancer is flawed scientists revealed last week
They warned that the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test was "all but useless" for predicting the risk of the disease becoming serious.
But doctors still use it to test for early signs of cancer, and the discovery of raised levels of the protein PSA can lead to men having radical surgery, sometimes leaving them incontinent or impotent.
End of PSA Test?
A study by experts at Stanford University Medical School of Medicine suggests the test can no longer be relied upon to produce accurate results. The authors declared: "The PSA era is over."
Experts increasingly believe the test leads to needless treatment such as radiotherapy, when men could be monitored and live with the cancer without it ever causing a problem. Researchers studied prostate tissues collected over 20 years, from the time it first became standard to remove prostates in response to high PSA levels to the present.
The team, led by Professor Thomas Stamey, said in the Journal of Urology that, as a screening test, the PSA indicated nothing more than the size of the prostate gland.
Professor Stamey added: "Our study raises a very serious question of whether a man should even use the test for prostate cancer." PSA screening has become more commonplace in the U.S. In the UK there is no screening program, with men only having the test at their own request. But nonetheless thousands have opted for it on the NHS with the number rising.
PSA Screening Inconclusive
Cancer experts in the UK have voiced concerns that the test could not distinguish between cancers which were 'tigers,' and those which were 'pussycats,' leading many men into treatments they did not need. Professor Stamey said raised levels of the protein PSA reflected only a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia -- a harmless increase in prostate size.
Prostate cancer was a disease all men developed if they lived long enough, so, given the chance to carry out a biopsy, doctors were likely to find it.
The Institute of Cancer Research in the UK advocates a system of 'active surveillance' whereby men with slightly raised PSA levels could be monitored for further increases which would warrant treatment.
The Department of Health said: "We recognize the PSA test is not as accurate as some screening tests for other cancers, and is available on the NHS only by request if a man has been counseled on the risks and limitations." Prostate cancer is the most common form of the disease to affect men in Britain, with 27,000 cases diagnosed each year and around 10,000 deaths.