A simple blood test that can detect the potential for prostate cancer has been credited with saving thousands of lives and yet, the man who discovered the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) in 1970, Dr. Richard Albin, has called the screening “an expensive public health disaster”. Prostate cancer kills more than 300,000 men a year world-wide, 90 per cent of whom are older than age 65. Consequences of surgery, which often follows a diagnosis, include incontinence and impotence. For those whose cancers are not detected at a curable stage, innovative vaccines and medicines can improve survival. At the same time, centres like the University College London Hospital (UCLH) are finding that past problems with interpreting PSA data have often been associated with the biopsy techniques often used following the finding of an elevated PSA level. And it’s known that MRI scanning before physically intrusive procedures, coupled when appropriate with treatments, such as the targeted use of ultra-sound to eliminate cancer cells, have promised to deliver radically improved results. These and other advances, such as finding biomarkers like the PCA3 protein, a product of prostate cancer gene 3, through urine analysis may also provide mass screening opportunities.
Questions of when and whom to test, how to treat and where to focus precious resources in the fight against cancer are explored by David Taylor, Emeritus Professor of Pharmaceutical and Public Health Policy, University College London in his article, Prostate cancer – the case for demanding better care… read more.