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New tests to detect prostate cancer early

May 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Just last month actor Ryan O'Neal and billionaire investor Warren Buffet revealed they have prostate cancer. They're among 225,000 men diagnosed with it every year. It kills 30,000 men annually. But better testing to detect it earlier could save a lot of lives. Two new tests aim to do just that.

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing is one way to find prostate tumors early, but PSA testing can miss some cancers or produce a false-positive result.

Now there's a new generation of cancer screening particularly useful for men with a normal prostate exam and a PSA result that's slightly higher than normal.

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

Zenka found out he had prostate cancer through the Pro-PSA test. PSA is found in the blood. High levels could indicate cancer. The new test measures three different levels in the blood. A study in the journal Urology found that combined with annual biopsies, Pro-PSA was 70 percent accurate in singling out tumors.

"It can give you a more accurate estimate of whether or not he has prostate cancer," said urologist Dr. William Catalona.

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," said urologist Dr. John Wei. "So when your doctor says it's abnormal, it could be because you have an enlarged prostate, prostate inflammation or infection, 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 actually going to make my life easier, if it doesn't put me out of business," said Zenka.

Two new ways to detect a killer earlier than ever before.

Currently 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 age 45.


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