Ultrasensitive PSA Tests: Can They Be Helpful After Surgery?
Volume 9, Winter 2013
After radical prostatectomy, a man’s levels of PSA in the blood are supposed to be undetectable, and for most men, this is what happens. If, months or years after surgery, PSA becomes detectable – above 0.1 ng/ml – and there are no other signs that the cancer has returned, this is called “biochemical recurrence.” “Clinical laboratories can confidently measure PSA at those levels,” says Lori Sokoll, Ph.D., the Prostate Cancer Team Scholar. “However, there are ultrasensitive assays that can detect very minute levels of PSA .” Use of these ultrasensitive tests has been controversial. Some scientists have proposed that with these ultrasensitive PSA assays, men who have PSA levels below a specific cutoff point shortly after surgery could have extra reassurance that their cancer is gone for good, and that men with PSA levels above this point might be monitored more closely. Other scientists and doctors believe that these lower levels may just make men anxious when they don’t need to be.
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