Prostate Cancer

About prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the common term for a number of types of cancer that develop in the male prostate gland. The cancer cells may remain localised in the prostate for life or they may spread (metastasize) from the prostate to other parts of the body, particularly to the bones and lymph nodes. About two thirds of cases are slow growing and remain in the prostate gland (indolent cancers), the other third are more aggressive, fast developing and metastasize.

Each year, worldwide, more than 1 million men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and at least 200,000 men die of its consequences. In New Zealand and Australia prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men. Primary options for treating prostate cancer are surgery, radiation, hormone therapy and chemotherapy.

Global market data

Click here for an overview of prostate cancer at the American Cancer Society web page.

Detecting prostate cancer

The common tools for detecting prostate cancer are the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test and the Digital Rectal Examination (DRE). Suspected prostate cancer is typically confirmed by taking a biopsy of the prostate gland and further tests, such as CT scans and bone scans, may be performed to determine whether the cancer has spread.

Studies have repeatedly shown that the PSA test is unreliable, frequently reporting either false negative or false positive results:

  • High PSA levels can occur as a result of infection or a benign hyperplasia of the prostate, when no prostate cancer is present. (PSA levels of less than 4 nanograms per millilitre in blood are accepted as normal.)
  • Approximately 15% of men with prostate cancer are asymptomatic and show no rise in PSA levels as the cancer develops.
  • The PSA test cannot distinguish indolent from aggressive prostate cancers.

Caldera Health is developing prostate cancer diagnostic tools which address the shortcomings of the PSA test.