PSA levels

  1. Rising PSA no cause for alarm

    "PSA velocity" sounds like a phrase that was coined just to frighten you.

    And it probably was.

    After all, if your doc says "your PSA numbers have risen a touch, but are still low," you probably wouldn't care.

    But if he says you've got "PSA velocity," well... now you're probably ready to panic, right?

    It's only natural--and before you know it, the real velocity here is the speed at which you're hurtling toward a biopsy and quite possibly surgery, radiation and drugs that could ruin your life... all for a cancer that never was a threat to your health in the first place.

    Now, a new study says its time to put the brakes on "PSA velocity," because it's an absolutely meaningless measure: Men whose numbers rise suddenly aren't much more likely to have prostate cancer than men whose numbers don't.

    Researchers at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center looked at data on 5,519 men who took part in a major study on prostate cancer prevention, all of whom were ultimately given biopsies no matter what their PSA tests found.

    The researchers found that a rising PSA level alone led to a very slight increase in overall cancer risk... but only in the types of tumors that you'd never actually need to worry about.

    And rising PSA levels didn't play any role at all in predicting the rare and aggressive cancers that could actually hurt you, according to the study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

    That's bad... but get ready for worse, because the researchers say PSA "velocity" is actually more likely to lead to a biopsy--not to mention those unnecessary cancer treatments--than a PSA level that was elevated in the first place.

    Many of the men who get these velocity-related biopsies are actually still well within the "normal" PSA range, even with that sudden rise.

    Here's the reality of the situation: PSA tests are notoriously unreliable no matter how they're used. High levels, rising levels, and even "normal" levels are all meaningless.

    They're like the lottery numbers in a fortune cookie.

    Even the tumors detected through this system are almost always slow-growing cancers that would never harm you.

    The treatments, on the other hand, could ruin your life, leaving your scarred and stressed--not to mention battling incontinence and impotence.

    It's just one more reason why a growing number of enlightened doctors now refuse to use PSA tests at all... and even some mainstream experts are backing away.

    But if your doc is still using these screenings, don't even waste your time asking him how he feels about the latest research.

    Find a doc who's already caught on instead.

  2. How to survive prostate cancer

    The mainstream is engaged in one of the biggest turnarounds in medical history--and it's almost complete.

    Two new studies show yet again how prostate cancer is badly overtreated, exposing millions of men to expensive, life- ruining surgeries and deadly radiation for absolutely no reason.

    The first study finds that men who've survived one prostate treatment only to see the disease return are still far more likely to die of anything other than the cancer.

    Kind of makes you wonder if that first treatment was even necessary, doesn't it?

    More than 600 prostate cancer patients who had been treated with either surgery or radiation were tracked for up to 16 years. During that time, 62 percent died--but just 12 percent of those patients died of prostate cancer, according to the study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

    You might think that's a win for "life-saving" treatment... but don't celebrate it just yet--because it turns out even those who suffered cancer recurrences survived the disease long enough to die of something else.

    Roughly 37 percent of the surgery patients saw a return of their cancer--but since that's based on the same PSA levels that have led to the overtreatment of this cancer in the first place, it's hard to take that number too seriously.

    In any case, nearly 80 percent of the patients who suffered this "biochemical recurrence" were still alive 15 years later.

    Again, it begs the question: Was that first surgery really necessary?

    Nearly half of those treated with radiation--48 percent-- suffered a recurrence, and 80 percent of them were still alive 10 years later, while 58 percent managed to live through 15 more years.

    You have to wonder what role radiation played in the cancer's return... and the slightly higher death rate.

    Meanwhile, a new study in the Journal of Urology finds that most men who undergo prostate cancer surgery get too many PSA tests afterwards.

    Researchers examined data on 2,219 men who underwent surgery at the Mayo Clinic, then were given PSA tests every three months for a year, every six months for the second year, and then annually after that.

    Just 6 percent of the patients experienced that so-called "biochemical recurrence."

    Researchers say that clearly, too many men are getting too many tests.

    I agree--because most of these men had one test too many to begin with: The one that led to their first cancer treatment. PSA tests are inaccurate, unreliable and the very embodiment of everything wrong with a system that profits off treating a disease that rarely kills anyone even when it's left alone.

    But while prostate cancer usually isn't worth worrying about, one rare and deadly form of cancer is. Keep reading to find out how you can lower your risk.

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