Screening may end "watchful waiting" for some with prostate cancer
(05/07/14) - A simple test may change the way doctors approach prostate cancer. Ultimately, the screening would put an end to some patient's "watchful waiting". In recent years, men with less advanced prostate cancers have been urged to wait before starting treatment, and watch to see how quickly the cancer grows before taking action. Some experts worry that strategy may be far too risky for a lot of men.
Mike Lewis and Don Buck both have prostate cancer. Doctors told Mike to watch his tumor, but wait on treatment, "he said that in the mean time I'm looking at this as something that you'll probably die with, and not of."
But Don's cancer became aggressive, "I had my prostate removed."
Cleveland Clinic Dr. Eric Klein says patients with aggressive cancers are difficult to identify at diagnosis, but a screening called genomics may change that. Patients have a biopsy, then the test measures which genes are in the tumor, "we can tell from that little amount of cancer how aggressive the cancer is."
As many as half of all prostate cancers in the US are low-risk. About 100,000 men in this category undergo treatment, even though there's only a 3 percent chance their disease will progress or become life-threatening.
"We now have the capacity, I think, to more accurately look someone in the eye and say, 'yeah, you do have a cancer, but it isn't anything to worry about," Klein says.
This same method has been used for years to help predict if chemotherapy is necessary for breast cancer patients who undergo surgery.
Dr. Klein says he believes there will one day be a similar test for all types of cancer.