Health Beat: Pinpointing prostate cancer
About 240,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the United States. One of the biggest challenges for doctors is correctly diagnosing this type of cancer. Now, there’s a new way to pinpoint prostate cancer that’s more accurate than ever.
Three years ago, Don Buck had a biopsy to check for prostate cancer. It came back clear. A year later, a second biopsy showed no cancer.
"I’m thinking I'm in pretty good shape," Buck said.
But a prior test — known as the PSA — told a different story. Buck's levels kept rising. They went up 600 percent in five years. So Buck decided to see urologist Leonard Marks to find out if his biopsies could be wrong.
"The conventional way to biopsy the prostate is not a perfect method," said Marks, professor of urology, Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Traditional biopsies are blind, meaning doctors randomly remove pieces of the prostate in hopes of locating a tumor. Nearly 1,000,000 prostate cancer biopsies are performed each year and 75 percent come back negative.
"Some of them will contain a cancer," said Marks, who is performing a new, targeted biopsy that's more accurate.
First, patients undergo an MRI. A special device fuses the pictures with real-time 3D ultrasound, allowing doctors to see the lesion during the biopsy.
"Before, we were never able to target like that," Marks said.
The targeted biopsy showed Buck did have cancer and it was aggressive.
"Within two years of the time that I came in to see Dr. Marks, I could have been dead," Buck explained.
It's a test that Buck said saved his life.
In a study published in the Journal of Urology, Marks performed the targeted biopsy on 171 men who either had slow-growing prostate cancer or elevated PSA levels. Prostate cancer was found in 53 percent of the volunteers. Of those cancers found using the targeted approach, 38 percent had a Gleason score greater than seven, indicating an aggressive tumor which is more likely to spread.
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