Rosen Louik & Perry is a Pittsburgh law firm that represents victims of medical malpractice, including men who have been injured by the failure to diagnosis prostate cancer. Because prostrate cancer is one of the several cancers where early detection can result in a cure, screening for prostate cancer is recommended.
Doctors can perform various screening tests in an attempt to diagnose prostate cancer at its earliest stages. The two initial tests are the digital rectal examination (DRE) and the prostate specific antigen (PSA). During a DRE, a physician will palpate the back portion of the prostate attempting to find any irregular areas. DRE is recommended for all men over the age of 40. PSA is produced by cells in the prostate gland. Although all men have PSA circulating in their bloodstream, increased levels will be found when prostrate cancer is present. To perform this test, a small amount of blood is taken from the patient and tested for PSA levels, which are reported as monograms per milliliter. A PSA reading of 0 to 2.5 is considered low; a reading of 2.6 to 10 is considered slightly to moderately elevated; a reading of 10 to 19.9 is considered moderately elevated; a reading of 20 or more is considered significantly elevated. Cancer is more likely to be present as PSA levels increase. It is important to note, however, that elevated PSA levels can be caused by non-cancerous conditions, such as prostatitis and benign prostatic hyperplasia. As a result, when elevated levels of PSA are found, further tests are required.
Prostate biopsy is the gold standard for such further testing. Using a transrectal ultrasound, a needle is placed into the prostate to obtain samples of tissue. Typically, six or more samples are taken from different parts of the prostate gland and are then sent to a pathologist for interpretation. The biopsy procedure is relatively painless, short in duration, and can be done on an outpatient basis.
Unfortunately, many errors can occur during attempts to determine whether or not a patient has prostate cancer. First, despite recommendations by many organizations that men undergo DRE and PSA testing, physicians fail to discuss and perform these tests. Second, all too frequently, elevated PSA levels are reported to the physicians’ offices by laboratories but these findings are simply overlooked by the physicians and/or their staffs; as a result, these patients fail to receive further testing. Third, even when biopsies are taken, laboratory error or misinterpretation by the pathologist can result in a patient receiving an incorrect diagnosis.
The bottom line – if you are over 40 years of age, you should ask your doctor to perform an annual DRE. If you are over 50 years of age, you should request that PSA testing be performed in conjunction with the DRE. If your PSA is elevated, ask your physician to refer you to an urologist for a determination of the cause of the elevated PSA levels. Finally, if you have a prostate biopsy, you should always request that your pathology slides be interpreted by two pathologists to confirm the diagnosis.