Testing for Prostate Cancer: What Every Man Should Know
May 31, 2016 10:52AM
By James Occhiogrosso
According to the American Cancer Society, about 220,000 cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in 2015, making it the second-most common male cancer. Unfortunately, no test is available to rule out prostate cancer, and only an invasive biopsy can make a conclusive diagnosis.
Most men age 50 or older are familiar with the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test ordered at routine examinations. PSA is specific to the prostate gland and cancer can increase its total value. A level above the generally recognized limit of four often results in a recommendation for a prostate biopsy, but other tests can help determine if the high PSA is significant.
The free PSA test measures the percentage of unbound (or free) PSA in the blood. Benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH) tends to produce a higher percentage of free PSA than cancer. The prostate cancer gene3 (PCA3) test measures a gene in the urine produced predominantly by prostate cancer cells. Unlike the PSA test, it, is unaffected by prostate size.
Earlier this year, these were joined by APIFINY, a new non-PSA blood test that measures several specific autoantibodies, a type of protein produced by the immune system as a response to the presence of prostate cancer.
While the total PSA test is most commonly used, there are many non-cancerous conditions that can cause elevation. A prostate inflamed by infection or minor trauma can temporarily elevate PSA, as can sexual activity, bicycle or horseback riding, heavy exercise or a digital rectal exam within 24 hours of a blood draw.
A biopsy is not a benign procedure. In a 2015 study, investigator Florian Wagenlehner, M.D., from the Justus-Liebig University in Giessen, Germany, followed 876 patients that received a transrectal prostate biopsy. Fifty percent of the patients developed symptomatic urinary tract infections; three percent developed febrile urinary tract infections; four percent were hospitalized; and one patient died.
While the tests are valuable for a man with an elevated PSA considering a prostate biopsy, none of them is conclusive. Thus, it is always wise to get multiple opinions before committing to any course of treatment or invasive tests. In many cases, natural treatments with selected herbal supplements and vitamins can help keep a wayward prostate from causing significant problems for many years.
James Occhiogrosso is a natural health practitioner, herbalist and author of the book Your Prostate, Your Libido, Your Life. He offers telephone consultations and provides a free natural health newsletter via email. For more information, call 239-652-0421, email [email protected] or visit HealthNaturallyToday.com.