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Published on 25 February 2011

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Test ‘causing unnecessary biopsies’

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The fast-rising levels of the blood marker should not be relied on to determine whether a person has prostate cancer, according to a doctor in the US

Both prostate gland cells and tumours produce the protein PSA (prostate specific antigen), tests for which are routinely used as the basis for diagnosis. High PSA levels and sharp increases over time usually result in doctors arranging for a biopsy which requires pieces of the prostate gland to be cut out and analysed. The invasive procedure can be painful and frightening for patients.

The blood tests often produce misleading readings. Men may be unnecessarily worried by a “high” result, and referred for a biopsy which later proves negative, or wrongly given the all-clear when they are actually ill. The new research shows that PSA velocity and the marker’s level in the blood is not a reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer.

Andrew Vickers, from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, led the research. He said: “We have found no evidence to support the recommendation that men with a high PSA velocity should be biopsied in the absence of other indications.

Dr Vickers added: “In other words, if a man’s PSA has risen rapidly in recent years, there is no cause for concern if his total PSA level is still low and his clinical exam is normal.”

Copyright © Press Association 2011

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre



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