Rethinking when to biopsy

Nancy Ferrari

Senior editor, Harvard Health

According to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a prostate cancer diagnosis may send a man to the operating room or drive him to get radiation therapy—even when the cancer is unlikely to spread or cause harm.

Using data from a large national cancer registry, researchers looked at treatment choices of more than 123,900 men diagnosed with prostate cancer between 2004 and 2006. Of these patients, 14% had prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels below 4 ng/mL, and more than half of those patients had low-risk disease. Despite being less likely to develop aggressive tumors, they were just as likely to undergo radiation or surgery as men with more active tumors and PSA levels between 4 and 20 ng/mL.

Although effective, surgery and radiation therapy are costly procedures that can lead to serious side effects, including incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Such complications may offset the intended benefit of treating the cancer, which might never have caused harm.

The researchers conclude that conservative treatment may be more appropriate for men with low PSA levels. They also note that performing biopsies on men with a PSA below 2.5 ng/mL may increase the risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer and needlessly receiving treatment.

SOURCE: Shao YH, Albertsen PC, Roberts CB, et al. Risk Profiles and Treatment Patterns Among Men Diagnosed as Having Prostate Cancer and a Prostate-Specific Antigen Level Below 4.0 ng/mL. Archives of Internal Medicine 2010;170:1256-61. PMID: 20660846.

Originally published September 2010; last reviewed March 2, 2011.

Comments:

  1. Gyrooryg

    “Copy Paste” response is biallirnt but he would do well not to plagiarise other peoples responses!!!!!!!!The fact is that exposure to microwave radiation for extended periods may well cause certain cancers to occur. They may also cause cataracts, birth defects and other serious health problems including nervous system damage, headaches, and pacemaker interference.However, new ovens are typically designed so as not to exceed 1mW/cm2 of radiated power. In addition, any leak that exceeds 5mW/cm2 at a distance of 2 inches from a microwave oven is considered to be dangerous and the oven should not be used. Ovens can deteriorate over time and should be checked to ensure that these limits are not exceeded.This can be done by your local service centre or you can purchase an earth leakage detector and have it on hand to keep a regular maintenance check of your oven. If an oven is in good condition then it would present no more risk then anything else around your home such as eating processed food, using mobile phones, living near HV power lines, or living in your house which exposes you to electromagnetic radiation from the electrical wiring. Also, as I had indicated in an earlier posting;the other aspect and some area of concern is the safety of eating foods from a microwave. This really depends on the containers used to heat the food in. Some plastics, for instance, are more prone to the effect of “migration”. whereby some additives used in plastics are more likely to migrate to foods more than others. The main concern in the past has been in connection with plasticisers which are used to improve the flexibility of some packaging materials. As the tendency for plasticisers to migrate increases at higher temperatures, only those plastics specifically designed for oven use are suitable for cooking. To reduce any possible risk one should;* Use only microwave-safe utensils.* While some packaging films may be labelled ‘microwave-safe’ care should be taken to avoid direct contact with the food when using them to cover containers or to reheat dinners on plates.* As migration is more likely to occur into hot fatty foods, glass containers are a suitable choice for heating these products. As yet there are no standards for claims such as “microwave safe”; if you are in doubt as to the safety of such materials contact the manufacturer or use a ceramic/glass alternative.In the end, I guess time will tell as to what other possible adverse effects, microwave ovens may have on our lifes!

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