As everyone reading my blog—and this website—knows, the PSA test has not been the best diagnostic test ever invented. It can mislead both men with cancer and men who don’t have cancer. Since the PSA can rise and fall, and since different labs may give different readings, the PSA has had both false negatives and false positives.
This can lead, especially in the false positives, to repeated biopsies—an unnecessary intrusion, physically and emotionally. In the false negatives, the PSA can lead to ignoring cancers that should be treated.
So, about a year ago, the news that a Johns Hopkins University team had developed a blood test that can detect prostate cancer early on was very good news for everyone, especially since—at least in preliminary results—it’s much more reliable than the PSA.
In the succeeding year, there has been a lot more attention paid to this test, which measures a protein that’s called “Early Prostate Cancer Antigen – 2” (EPCA-2). From what the Johns Hopkins researchers say, EPCA-2 does a fine job of alerting oncologists and urologists to patients who have prostate cancer. Even better, it seems to be very good at detecting prostate cancer in its earliest stages.
Of course, not everyone who has prostate cancer needs treatment, so detecting it early could lead to more biopsies and more treatment than is needed. But, if used wisely, EPCA-2 could eliminate the need for biopsies in those men who previously might have had false positives.
Like any preliminary studies, this one needs to be repeated and replicated for its results, but if the Johns Hopkins researchers are right; it could mean a huge advance in the field. The National Cancer Institute has given grants to five research centers to pursue this line of inquiry.
I recently went on another prostate cancer site called psa-rising.com (“PSA Rising”), an advisory site for people who are concerned about their diagnosis. Just as a reminder, for those of you who are diagnosed with prostate cancer, and who get worried sick, PSA Rising suggests you:
Get your biopsy slides re-read by a pathologist who specializes in prostate cancer.
Seek second or third opinions.
Compare a range of treatment options and their side effects.
Make an informed choice based on evidence and your personal values.
Keep up with the latest in prostate research, treatment, and drugs at our Prostate News section.
Questions about treatment options or new tests? Send an email to one of our doctor experts at Feedback@ProstateCommons.com
Published On: November 22, 2006