Screening

New blood test guides researchers toward the best treatment for aggressive prostate cancer

Charlie Schmidt

Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Diseases

Tumors that spread, or metastasize, in the body shed cells into blood that doctors can scrutinize for insights into what a patient’s cancer might do. Analyzing these so-called circulating tumor cells (CTCs) isn’t part of routine care yet, in part because they’re so hard to pick out of the millions of normal cells in a […]

Influential task force issues new recommendations on prostate cancer screening

Charlie Schmidt

Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Diseases

Back in 2012, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) took aim at the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening test for prostate cancer with a blanket recommendation against it for all men. This was a big deal. The Task Force is widely seen as the top expert panel on cancer screening in the United States, and […]

Diagnostic MRIs allow some men flagged by PSA screening to avoid a biospy, new study shows

Charlie Schmidt

Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Diseases

A specialized type of diagnostic MRI scan can reduce the number of invasive prostate biopsies by nearly a third, according to results from a newly published international study. An MRI machine uses a very large magnet, a radio-wave transmitter, and a computer to construct detailed pictures of structures inside the body. The new study relied […]

New study once again casts doubt on PSA screening

Charlie Schmidt

Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Diseases

To screen or not to screen for prostate cancer? This remains an important question. Screening relies on a highly imperfect measure, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, which is prone to false-positive results. And with mounting evidence that survival benefits from screening pale in comparison with the harms from overtreatment — particularly incontinence and impotence […]

New study supports lifesaving benefits from PSA screening

Charlie Schmidt

Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Diseases

Charles Schmidt Does screening for prostate cancer with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test save lives? A new study suggests that it does, but at the risk of exposing men with slow-growing tumors that may not be life-threatening to treatments they may not really need. Published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the study reconciles conflicting results […]

Influential task force revises its position on PSA screening tests

Charlie Schmidt

Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Diseases

Charlie Schmidt In 2012, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) took the unprecedented step of recommending against prostate cancer screening for all men, regardless of age, race, or family history. Now this influential group of independent experts is reassessing its position based on more recent data. Instead of discouraging screening altogether, the UPSTF is […]

New imaging technique may help some men avoid prostate biopsy

Nancy Ferrari

Senior editor, Harvard Health

Men who have high levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in their blood face troubling uncertainties. While it’s true that prostate cancer can elevate PSA, so can other conditions, including the benign prostate enlargement that afflicts many men as they get older. PSA levels also vary normally from one man to the next, and some men […]

New urine test predicts high-grade cancer

Charlie Schmidt

Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Diseases

Suspicious findings from prostate cancer screening are often followed by a procedure most men would prefer to avoid: a prostate biopsy. But what if biopsies actually could be avoided on the basis of non-invasive test results? Screening tests are moving in that direction, with some intriguing results. One of them, the Prostate Health Index blood test, combines measures of three forms of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) into a score that helps doctors predict if a cancer is likely to progress, with an aim to circumvent biopsies that aren’t necessary.

Risks of active surveillance for men with intermediate-risk prostate cancers

Charlie Schmidt

Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Diseases

Men diagnosed with slow-growing prostate tumors that likely won’t be harmful during their lifetimes can often avoid immediate treatment. Instead, they can have their tumor monitored using a strategy called active surveillance. With this approach, doctors perform periodic checks for tumor progression and start treatment only if the cancer begins to metastasize, or spread. Active […]

Does fewer PSA tests mean less prostate cancer?

Charlie Schmidt

Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Diseases

Fewer men are being given PSA tests to screen for prostate cancer. As screening rates have fallen, so have the number of prostate cancer diagnoses. This probably also means that fewer men are receiving potentially unnecessary treatment, with its attendant negative side effects. At the same time, it isn’t yet clear whether that comes at the cost of more aggressive cancers being caught at an incurable stage. Better screening tests may make the difference in helping strike the right balance between limiting harm and preventing prostate cancer deaths.