Prostate cancer tests underestimate the severity of the disease

  • Posted

Posted 10/04/2014

Julie Crossley 1340718845_JulieCrossleyPX.jpg

The BBC reports today that prostate cancer tests, which predict how aggressive a tumour is, underestimate the severity of the disease in half of cases.

A study by scientists at the University of Cambridge looked at 847 men with prostate cancer. The study found that 209 out of the 415 who were initially told their cancer was slow-growing, were found to have a more aggressive form of the disease. It was discovered that for almost a third of the 415 men, the cancer had spread around the body. 

Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer in the UK. There are 41,700 new cases diagnosed and 10,800 deaths each year. Scientists are now calling for better tests to define the nature of the cancer.

The study’s author, Greg Shaw, from the University of Cambridge, said there were a “surprising” number of men who were not diagnosed appropriately the first time around.

Currently, men with low-grade, early stage cancers are given the choice of undergoing an operation to remove the prostate, or active surveillance, where doctors perform regular blood tests and examinations.

Mr Shaw said that if men opted for active surveillance, 30% of them would be likely to need “radical treatment”, such as chemotherapy, five years later, which shows that there is room for improvement.

Mr Shaw said a template biopsy, which looks at more tissue samples than the usual prostate biopsy, should be included. More samples could give a clearer picture of the extent of the disease.

He also said MRI scans should be improved to identify how aggressive the cancer was from the outset.

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK said: “Accurate prostate cancer diagnosis continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing the disease today.”

“The results of this study highlight yet again that existing tests cannot provide a precise picture of the aggressiveness of a man’s cancer, often leaving men and their doctors to make difficult decisions about treatment without all the facts.”

Julie Crossley, a medical injury lawyer at Ashtons Legal, comments: “This is a terrible disease with no prominent symptoms and it is welcomed that more studies are being performed.”


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