Prostate Cancer Exams: New Test Can Tell You Whether It's Deadly Or Not

Media outlets are reporting the development of a new test in the battle against prostate cancer. The Oncotype DX Prostate Cancer Test can determine whether a man has an aggressive form of cancer that should be treated with surgery or radiation. These procedures have serious side effects such as impotence and incontinence.

By way of background, a prostate cancer odyssey has three stages: one, diagnosis, which begins with PSA tests; two, radical treatment or observation; three, surveillance subsequent to radical treatment. The aforementioned test relates to the second step.

The test, which was developed by Genomic Health, could triple the number of men who indefinitely postpone radical treatment without increasing their risk of dying from prostate cancer.

The benefits of this new development are incalculable from a lifestyle perspective and are very large financially. Monitoring cancer is vastly less expensive than a surgical or radiation procedure. One potential problem may be the cost of the test, which is expected to be $3,820. Ultimately, medical insurers may demand the test be administered before approving much more costly radical treatment.

Genomic has great credibility because it sells a similar test for breast cancer patients, which helps women decide whether they should be subjected to radiation after breast surgery. These tests are all based upon advanced genetics assessments.

Some experts believe the prostate cancer test is a "watershed," "akin to going from pulse rate measurements to electrocardiograms in cardiology." To reiterate, this test has no impact on the thousands of men who have elevated PSA levels and no evidence of cancer. This group will continue to be subjected to future tests including biopsies.

Tests were conducted on "archived biopsy samples" from 412 patients who were diagnosed with low or intermediate cancer risks but then underwent surgery. Genomic determined that 26% of the samples were classified as every low risk, meaning these men could have safely avoided surgery. The current method of predicting the strength of a prostate cancer is the Gleason Score. The new test is reported to be much more accurate.

Efforts to fight prostate cancer continue unabated across the country. Annually there are approximately 238 thousand men diagnosed with the disease. It can be a killer, if the strain is one of the aggressive types. The problem is determining whether the type a patient has falls in that group. Hopefully, the Oncotype DX test will help, saving many men from unnecessary radical treatment and lifestyle impairment.