Thursday, February 28, 2008

New method to test spread of prostate cancer

One of the big questions after a confirmed diagnosis of prostate cancer is whether the tumor has spread outside the walls of the prostate.

This is often difficult to predict, because the spread is sometimes at the microscopic level and therefore not visible on CT scans or other imaging tests. Often the patient doesn't know for sure until the prostate and adjacent lymph nodes are removed and examined in the lab.

Current methods of combining the results of PSA tests, staging, and rectal exams is accurate in predicting spread of the cancer in 89% of cases. Knowing whether the cancer has spread would give doctors and patients a better idea how to proceed with treatment.

Now researchers say a blood test for endoglin, a plasma biomarker, can increase the accuracy of predicting the spread of prostate cancer to 97.8%. Endoglin is used to predict the spread of colon and breast cancer.

The results of the study were published in Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, and summarized at Science Daily.

In spite of the results of this study, researchers say there were limits to the study and more work needs to be done before it can be used clinically.

If the endoglin test can be successfully used, however, then not only will patients have a better idea how to proceed with treatment but it may be unnecessary to remove pelvic lymph nodes in the future.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

No single treatment preferred for prostate cancer

It comes as no surprise to many of us who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer that there is no single treatment accepted by the medical community as the best.

There's surgical removal, radiation, and hormone therapy. There's even watchful waiting, which is really no treatment at all but a way of monitoring the tumor for signs of growing.

A report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reviewed all the treatments and could not recommend one over the others because of a lack of research in prostate cancer.

When I researched what type of treatment I should undergo for protate cancer, I came to my conclusion partly based on the stage of the tumor. It's troubling that the actual reason that men have so many options is because there isn't the clinical data available for better treatment decisions.

"Information is really lacking to determine whether overall one treatment is more effective and preferred," Dr. Timothy Wilt of from the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research is quoted.

The reason for this lack of data:

  • Lack of financing
  • Lack of advocacy
  • Reluctance of men to participate in clinical trials
  • A long time for tumors to turn deadly

The International Herald Tribune notes that US government spending on prostate cancer lags behind breast cancer research. The National Cancer Institute funded $305.6 million for prostate cancer compared to $551.1 million for breast cancer in 2007.

I'm not crying foul that prostate cancer is more deserving than breast cancer. They both should be adequately funded so men and women can both make the best choices about their cancer treatment.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thousands of biopsy results faulty in New Brunswick

After blood tests confirmed that my PSA levels were on the rise last summer, I had to undergo a prostate biopsy. This procedure shouldn't be taken lightly, as it determines whether there is actually a tumor present in the prostate gland.

Regardless of what PSA tests and digital rectal examinations find, the biopsy helps you and your doctor decide on a course of action regarding treatment.

So imagine the chaos that's been created in New Brunswick where the Miramichi Regional Health Authority is reevaluating biopsies of more than 23,000 patients taken over the past 12 years.


The health authority is re-examining the biopsies after an independent review of a former pathologist found 18% of his prostate and breast cancer cases in 2004 and 2005 had incomplete results and 3 percent were misdiagnosed, reports CBCNews.

A 97% success might seem pretty good, until you do the math and realize that if the rate holds true for all 23,000 cases, that's nearly 700 incorrect diagnoses.

The most recent cases are being reviewed first, as they have the most "clinical significance," CBC reports. The health department is seeking help from pathology labs across North America.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What this prostate cancer blog is all about

It's been six months since I learned that I had prostate cancer. Needless to say, it was a real shock.
I was 57 years old at the time and felt that I was in pretty good health. When the doctor told me I had a tumor in my prostate gland, I remember blurting out, "But I feel fine."
Sure I felt fine, but things were happening inside my body that only blood tests and other methods of early detection could uncover.
That's how cancer works. The silent killer. By the time you know something's wrong, it's often too late to do anything about it.
I've written about some of my experiences with prostate cancer at my bicycling blog, but I have a lot of information and insight to share with men who might be going through this.
On Prostate Cancer Alert, I'll be writing about my own personal decisions regarding prostate cancer and what I've learned along the way. Also, I'll report on new and alternative treatments and other issues involving prostate cancer.
I hope you find this information helpful.