Researchers have found that a test for prostate cancer is more reliable if done twice, which could bring about a remarkable drop in diagnostic surgery that is unnecessary.
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) exam has been used to help screen for prostate cancer for more than 20 years, however, it has been found to be unreliable, leading to calls for it to be abandoned. Currently a team of experts in Ottawa, Canada, can see that when it’s repeated subsequently its consistency increases, minimizing unnecessary biopsies by 60 per cent.
The investigation group examined the medical documents of 1,268 men who had an abnormally high PSA test outcome and were evaluated in the Ottawa Regional Cancer Assessment Center between 2008 and 2013.
In 25 percent of these men, the next PSA test returned normal. Only 28 percent of men with contradictory exam results underwent a biopsy when compared with 62 percent of men who had two abnormal test results, representing a 60 percent reduction in biopsies.
Furthermore, only three percent of males with inconsistent test results who had a biopsy were identified as having cancer within the year, when compared to 19 percent of men who had two abnormal assessments, suggesting that the second normal test is important.
The study took place in The Ottawa Hospital and in the University of Ottawa.
According to Dr Rodney Breau, one of the lead reserachers,
A high PSA level is associated with a greater risk of prostate cancer, and PSA screening can help detect cancer at an earlier, more treatable stage. However, PSA levels can also fluctuate because of infections, physical activity and laboratory error. Because of this variation, we implemented a protocol to always repeat an abnormal test before referring a patient for a biopsy. We had a hunch that this would reduce unnecessary biopsies and our study shows that our suspicion was correct.”