Prostate cancer can be detected early with a PSA test (a blood test that measures levels of prostate-specific antigen) and a digital rectal exam (DRE).
Researchers are making headway in improving prostate cancer detection tools and in perfecting treatment approaches. Here are some areas they’re looking into.
The Canadian Prostate Cancer Genome Network brings together researchers from across the country to sequence the DNA in different tumor types.
Thanks to this $20 million genetic mapping project, treatment decisions could eventually be based on personal genetics.
To treat or not to treat
The idea of closely watching some patients and treating them only if and when necessary is taking hold in Canada, says Dr. Joseph Chin, professor and chair in the division of surgical oncology at the University of Western Ontario in London.
Dr. Robert Nam, a Canadian Cancer Society researcher at McGill University, has developed a new tool that may more accurately calculate the risk of prostate cancer.
It relies on age, ethnicity, family history, prostate size, and overall health, as well as the standard PSA and DRE test results.
Serial PSA testing
If PSA level increases quickly, it may indicate cancer, so checking levels repeatedly may pick up the rise earlier.
MRIs “are stronger, better and more powerful” than ever and are able to more precisely tell doctors where to biopsy, says Chin.
Diet and lifestyle
Research indicates that a high-fat diet may raise risks for prostate cancer.
High-fat meats that are charred or cooked at high temperatures, and preserved meats like bacon and deli meats, could pose the highest risk.
Canadian researchers have helped develop the PCA3, a molecular urine test that could help identify more aggressive prostate cancers.
Canadian Cancer Society researchers are looking at implanting tiny radioactive seeds in a prostate tumor.
It may be a more precise way of treating patients while reducing side effects.
This procedure is growing in popularity.
It’s not for every patient — it depends on the size of patient, the location and extent of the cancer and how aggressive it is.
Researchers in London and Toronto are collaborating to improve detection and treatment of localized prostate cancers.
“The prostate is the size of a walnut and if we can somehow confirm that the cancer is not affecting the whole walnut but is confined to a pea-sized area within that walnut, then we might be able to just treat the pea,” explains Chin.