Experts urge prostate cancer "man-o-gram"

Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:34am EST
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By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Prostate cancer experts urged Congress and the incoming Obama administration on Wednesday to make a major research commitment to find better detection methods, including what they call a "man-o-gram."

Their idea involves a sophisticated ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging or other method to find dangerous prostate tumors, akin to the common mammogram scans used to find breast tumors.

Dr. Faina Shtern, who heads the Boston-based nonprofit AdMeTech Foundation coordinating the advocacy effort, said $500 million in research funding is needed over five years.

Many men now have a blood test measuring levels of a protein produced by the prostate gland called prostate-specific antigen, or PSA.

Elevated PSA levels may indicate prostate cancer, but benign conditions can also raise levels. Men with elevated PSA often must have an invasive biopsy to test prostate tissue for cancer.

Only about 25 percent to 30 percent of men who have the biopsy actually turn out to have prostate cancer. And experts believe that many cancers detected after PSA screening are so minor they would never present a threat if left untreated.

There is a controversy among cancer researchers about whether PSA screening actually saves lives, with many arguing that it leads to unnecessary surgical and radiation treatment for minor cancers, causing negative side effects.

And because there is no reliable imaging technique to guide the selection of tissue for the biopsies, doctors take random plugs of prostate blindly and may miss tumors.   Continued...

<p>A radiologist examines breast X-rays after a cancer prevention medical check-up at the Ambroise Pare hospital in Marseille, southern France, on April 3, 2008. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier</p>