Advances in prostate exams
Submitted by: Marc C. Gittelman, M.D.
Submitted on: March 25, 2008
Q: I just turned 55 and I have had several friends who have had prostate biopsies in order to be certain that they don’t have cancer. I am not particularly keen on the idea of a biopsy. Is there anything new to help determine whether someone has prostate cancer?
A: The American Urologic Association recommends that all men have a prostate exam and a blood test called a PSA by age 50. This exam should be performed at a younger age if men are of African-American heritage or if there is a family history of prostate cancer. Studies have shown that only 35 percent of men having biopsies actually have prostate cancer. To help reduce the number of biopsies done in normal men, a new test – the PCA3 – is available to help determine which men may have a higher risk of having prostate cancer.
It’s a urine test collected after a prostate examination. This remarkably sophisticated test is based on analyzing the prostate DNA and comparing it with the DNA of men proven to have prostate cancer. It helps me, a urologist, to determine which men are more likely to eventually have prostate cancer and which are better candidates for a prostate biopsy. Even if a biopsy is needed, the four-to-five minute technique will be done under local anesthesia in a physician’s office. If your physician or urologist has suggested a prostate biopsy, ask if a PCA3 would be helpful.