The PSA blood test which has been used to screen for prostate cancer has come under a barrage of criticism in recent weeks. The PSA level increases in many non-cancer conditions and this has led to many biopsies and procedures that created more harm, and cost, than good. For this reason, the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the U.S. Preventive Task Force have indicated that men should not be routinely screened for prostate cancer with the PSA blood test.
A new test may be on the horizon. Beckman Coulter said its application for the Prostate Health Index test has been approved by the FDA. The test measures a PSA precursor protein known as [-2] pro-PSA in men with elevated PSA’s between the level of 4 and 10. This, coupled with the PSA and free PSA, helps create the Prostate Health Index. The company’s data showed that by using the Prostate Health Index there were 31% fewer negative biopsies of the prostate. The test will be commercially available by the fall of 2012.
We will make this test available when the commercial labs inform us that they are ready to perform it. It remains to be seen whether the health insurance companies will pay for it immediately. We will need to monitor whether the promise and initial data are accurate when the test is introduced into the general public. We will also need guidelines on how often to follow this index.
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