Men who have battled prostate cancer know that the completion of treatment doesn’t necessarily mean a person is out of the woods entirely. To safeguard against potential recurrences, there is a need to report for routine blood screening. The prostate-specific antigen test can give doctors the first indication that cancer has returned and perhaps even spread. Tools like the MRI or bone scans, however, may not be able to confirm the blood test’s findings, however, until a tumor has grown and become more complicated to treat. A relatively new tracer drug used in conjunction with a PET scan, however, can pinpoint a recurrence faster, providing a greater chance for eventual treatment to be successful.
The new scan uses a tracer known as C-11. This tracer is absorbed by prostate cancer cells and “lights up” those cells on a PET scan. The resulting images enable doctors to pinpoint recurrences faster and more effectively, which can result in more effective treatment and may even save lives. Since this new test is costly and the tracer does not have a shelf life, it is not offered as a routine screen following prostate cancer treatment. It is, however, now available when PSA tests raise red flags.
It is estimated that some 160,000 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the coming year. Men who undergo successful treatments, however, will find the need for return visits crucial. Elevated PSA levels may indicate a return of the disease. Courtesy of the new tracer drug confirming or denying the results is now faster and more reliable.
Men who are concerned about prostate cancer risks should talk with their healthcare providers. Routine screening is critical for early detection and successful treatment of this common form of cancer. Since all men are at risk, this is a conversation that every man should have with a family physician as they reach middle age.