New prostate cancer testing prevents unnecessary treatment

This month, The American Urological Association took a new position on prostate cancer screenings. Now the AUA wants men between 55 and 69 to be tested. It is no longer recommended that screenings start as early as 40 or go on past 70.

Here's why. Many screenings lead to unnecessary biopsies and side effects.

There is also a new genetic test out there. This helps patients and doctors determine appropriate treatment options.

Forty percent of prostate tumors grow so slowly that it's best to take a "watch and wait" approach. Local doctor George Adams at Urology Centers of Alabama, who says this new genetic test can keep patients from being over-treated.

Urologist George{} Adams says it's changing the way doctors approach treatment. "They will review that biopsy material and look at the genes involved that indicate how aggressive these cells are. So this can help you predict how aggressive your cancer is," said Adams.

That{} means doctors can then decide how aggressive they should be in attacking the cancer. In the past, Adams said they only had the biopsy to rely on. "The more that are positive, the more volume of tumor is there," said Adams.

Doctors also on the gleason score, which rates how fast the cancer cells are growing. "One is the slowest growing cell, ten is the fastest growing. So if you have an eight, nine or ten, you need to do something," said Adams.

Adams says the Oncotype-DX test will be especially helpful with gleason levels five, six, and seven; the obscure mid-range.

Not only is the test being praised for accuracy, but it's saving patients from treatments that can be uncomfortable, expensive, and cause unwanted side effects like impotence. "If it's not very aggressive, the chances are you're not going to die from this you can be more conservative, and that way you can do what we call active surveillance. The other word for this is watchful waiting," said Adams.

Adams, who is a prostate cancer survivor himself,{} says advancements in medicine like this one are about giving patients power and peace of mind. "A lot of people are scared of surgery. They don't want to have an operation, and then radiation is very inconvenient, and so if they have that option where the chances are 'I'm probably not going to die of this' they may choose active surveillance," he said.

Adams says even men with low-risk prostate cancer should continue to have yearly biopsies to monitor the cancer cells.

He says the new genetic test can also prevent under-treatment.