Updated 09/24/2012 12:01 AM
Doctors Find Alternatives To Prostate Biopsies For Men With Elevated PSA Levels
Men whose blood tests reveal elevated PSA levels but no sign of prostate cancer can now alternatives to getting painful biopsies, according to a new medical study. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
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Jim Goetz, a 71-year-old Brooklyn resident, has a family history of prostate cancer. Both his father and brother tested positive for the disease. Sure enough, when Goetz took a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test, his own levels were elevated.
"The big issue is what does the PSA test really mean? Nobody knows," says Goetz.
Many doctors agree. A PSA test screens for a protein that is produced by the prostate gland. In some cases, the higher the PSA, the more likely the patient has prostate cancer, but sometimes that is not so.
"Part of the problem is, patient comes in, he's told, 'Your PSA is elevated.' What do you do? Biopsy. And then what do you do?" says Dr. Steven Kaplan, the director of the Iris Cantor Men's Health Center at NewYork-Presbyterian.
In the case of Goetz, he had a biopsy that showed he did not have cancer, but his PSA levels were still high.
Kaplan led a study at Weill Cornell Medical Center that found that putting patients on two medications — Avodart and Proscar — reduced elevated PSA levels and reduced the need for repeated biopsies.
"What we found was that when we eliminated all of the variables by using these medications, PSA all of a sudden became a better marker for prostate cancer," says Kaplan. "So we were able to diagnose 60 percent of men who had prostate cancer as opposed to before patients who had a negative biopsy."
Kaplan's study, which is published in the September issue of The Journal Of Urology, is creating a lot of buzz in the medical community. Although the two drugs have side effects like breast enlargement and decreased libido, doctors say they are small risks compared to unnecessary biopsies.