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December 22, 2007

Is The Prostate Cancer Biopsy An Effective Diagnostic Tool?

Although there are a number of tests that may be carried out if you suspect the possible presence of prostate cancer, the only certain way to confirm the disease is the prostate biopsy. But just how successful is the biopsy when it comes to confirming this disease?

In the US alone annually there are approximately one million prostate biopsies carried out of which around 25 percent indicate the presence of prostate cancer. But, of the remaining 75 percent of prostate biopsies about one-third produce false negative results. This means that approximately 25 percent of those men undergoing prostate biopsies are cleared by this test, in spite of the fact that they are suffering from prostate cancer.

At first sight therefore it might appear that the prostate biopsy is not a very satisfactory test but these results do not in fact mean that there is anything wrong with the prostate biopsy procedure as a method of confirming the presence of prostate cancer. What it does clearly mean however is the need to identify those patients who, in spite of returning a negative result, are nonetheless at high risk from prostate cancer and ought therefore to have a second follow-up biopsy.

The difficulty is that until now there has not been an easy method of identifying those patients at risk. Luckily, a recent study of more than five hundred men being investigated for prostate cancer may now provide a solution.

All of the men investigated in the study had previously received a negative prostate biopsy result but researchers found that when they looked at the patient's prostate specific antigen (PSA) test results and these were adjusted for the size of the prostate gland they were able to identify those patients who were more likely to produce a positive result on a second biopsy.

The researchers also discovered that patients with a Gleeson score of 7 or higher were at greater risk from life-threatening prostate cancer and were once again more likely to produce a positive result from a second biopsy. The Gleeson score runs on a scale between 2 and 10 and a patient's score is derived from a microscopic investigation of prostate biopsy tissue. Low scores point to cancer with a small risk of spread while high scores point to cancer that is more likely to spread.

There are a number of prostate biopsy procedures used today but perhaps the most common procedure is the core needle biopsy. Here a number of very small tissue samples are removed from different areas of the prostrate gland with a biopsy gun that fires a needle into the selected section and removes the sample in a fraction of a second. These samples are then sent off for laboratory analysis to find out whether cancer is present and, if so, to establish just how much of the prostate gland is affected.

A prostate biopsy is a costly procedure and is a test that can be quite upsetting for the patient. It can also be a fairly painful procedure that may involve bleeding and a risk of infection. For these reasons it is important to pinpoint those men for whom a follow-up biopsy would be sensible and to reduce as far as we can the number of needless follow-up biopsies being done every year.
ProstateProblemCenter.com provides information on everything from the
prostate biopsy to the therapeutic use of prostate milking.

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