It’s a sad fact that many doctors often continue to use procedures, which might be out of date or even proven to be harmful to patients.
This doesn’t mean that they are ‘bad’ doctors, but when doctors don’t stay on top of new advances in medicine or better treatment options, patients are the ones who suffer the most.
A case in point is the use of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, used to determine prostate cancer risk. And it’s something every man over the age of 40 must’ve heard their doctor mention at least once.
However, if your doctor suggests a biopsy based on a high PSA level, he may be cutting corners. That’s because a recent supplement study inadvertently demonstrates that a PSA reading should be considered a useful tool, as long as it’s viewed with a healthy dose of scepticism.
Putting the brakes on PSA testing
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a small protein molecule which is released from the prostate gland into the bloodstream. As you get older, your prostate slowly enlarges and your PSA gradually increases. The larger your prostate, the higher the PSA. So when a blood test reveals an elevated level of the protein, it’s a red flag that warns of possible cancer.
Of course, prostate cancer is a risk all men should be aware of, but what if there is another way to control your PSA levels without invasive treatments.
In a study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, urology researchers in Rotterdam recruited 37 men who had prostate cancer and increasing PSA levels. For a period of six weeks, about half of the subjects supplemented their diets with a formula that contained antioxidants, green tea extract, soy extract, vitamin E, selenium and plant sterols.
The remaining participants took a placebo. In the second phase of the study, those taking the supplement switched to placebo for six additional weeks, while the first placebo group began taking the supplement.
Blood tests taken throughout the study showed that PSA levels continued to increase during the placebo phase, but the increase was significantly slowed during the supplement phase. However, the supplements didn’t have any effect on the cancer – meaning the tumour size did not reduce.
While ineffective in treating cancer, what this study did help to confirm is that something as simple as a dietary change may help reduce the increase in PSA levels.
When you speak to your doctor – especially if you don’t get a prostate cancer diagnosis – it would be useful for you to discuss an alternative treatment plan to help control your PSA levels. That’s because the gold-standard mainstream treatment after raised PSA levels have been detected is to biopsy samples taken from your prostate gland. These prostate biopsies can cause infection at the biopsy site, rectal bleeding, blood in your semen, difficulty urinating and even impotence.
These risks can be avoided with an alternative treatment plan and by applying what some doctors call ‘a watchful wait period’.
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Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
International journal of cancer. Journal international du cancer 2005; 113(5): 835-40