31 May 2004

Negative PSA Test IS NOT A Guarantee

What do you do when a laboratory test like PSA (prostate-specific antigen) fails to detect if you have prostate cancer or not?

PSA is a protein produced by the cells of the prostate gland. The PSA test measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA levels can rise due to malignant (cancerous) or benign (not cancerous) conditions.The official PSA test cut-off for prostate cancer screening is less than 4ng/mL. Men who are screened usually heave a sigh of relieve when they receive results of less than 4ng/mL. Levels of greater than 4ng/mL are said to show an increased risk for prostate cancer. But this is about to change. Last week, the New England Journal of Medicine(NEJM) reported that negative PSA tests may be misleading.

The study found that 15% of the men who had "normal" PSA levels still had prostate cancer. In about 2.3% of those so-called "normal" men, high-grade prostate cancer was found. The study also found out that the lower the PSA level, the smaller the risk of having cancer but this slowly rises as PSA levels rise. The significant finding seems to be that there is no clear PSA level at which a person can be guaranteed cancer-free.

The more confusing finding of the study revealed some incidence of high-grade cancer --- the most aggressive --- was found at every PSA level!.

These results of this study are disconcerting. The next step after a positive PSA test is biopsy. Now it seems that even with a negative PSA test, concerned men ought to have biopsy, too...just to be sure.

If you want to know the real score about this issue, click here and get the information straight from Dr. Ian M. Thompson, lead author of the NEJM study who was recently interviewed by Newsweek about this controversy.

Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer include weak or interrupted flow of urine, frequent urination (especially at night), difficulty urinating, pain or burning during urination, blood in the urine or semen, nagging pain in the back, hips, or pelvis, and painful ejaculation.

Guys, check if you have one or more of the signs and symptoms above. Don't hesitate to see your urologist as prevention is still the best option you have.

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