A new prostate cancer test being developed by scientists could involve a home urine test. Experts hope this will revolutionise diagnosis of the disease by creating the at-home collection kit.
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The test is much more sensitive than current methods, picking up how aggressive the disease is and at what point men will need treatment.
It is used for men suspected of having cancer and can work out which men have aggressive or intermediate levels of the disease, as well as ruling out those who do not have prostate cancer.
The test cuts down the need for a barrage of other procedures, including biopsies, blood tests, a physical examination known as a digital rectal examination (DRE), or an MRI scan.
It is also suitable for men already diagnosed with low risk disease who are on a “watch and wait” approach known as active surveillance.
For these men, the test could cut follow-up appointments from once every year to once every two to three years.
Experts behind the Prostate Urine Risk (PUR) test, from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, say they have now developed the test further so urine samples can be collected at home.
This means men do not have to go into the clinic to provide a urine sample or to undergo a rectal exam.
They say this is an important step, because the first urine of the day provides biomarker levels from the prostate that are much higher and more consistent than at other times.
Lead researcher Dr Jeremy Clark, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “The PUR test looks at gene expression in urine samples and provides vital information about whether a cancer is aggressive or ‘low risk’.
“Being able to simply provide a urine sample at home and post a sample off for analysis could really revolutionise diagnosis.
“It means that men would not have to undergo a digital rectal examination, so it would be much less stressful and should result in a lot more patients being tested.”
As part of a small study, the researchers gave 14 men at-home collection kits and compared the results of their morning-time home urine samples with samples collected after a digital rectal examination.
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Dr Clark said: “We found that urine samples taken at home showed the biomarkers for prostate cancer much more clearly than after a rectal examination.
“And feedback from the participants showed that the at-home test was preferable.”
At present, medics can struggle to identify those patients with an aggressive form of prostate cancer who need immediate treatment from those who are low risk and put on active surveillance.
But Dr Clark said: “Using our at-home test could in future revolutionise how those on active surveillance are monitored for disease progression, with men only having to visit the clinic for a positive urine result.
“This is in contrast to the current situation where men are recalled to the clinic every six to 12 months for painful and expensive biopsies.
“Because the PUR test accurately predicts aggressive prostate cancer, and predicts whether patients will require treatment up to five years earlier than standard clinical methods – it means that a negative test could enable men to only be retested every two to three years, relieving stress to the patient and reducing hospital workload.”
The research team say that their findings could also help pioneer the development of at-home collection tests for bladder and kidney cancer.
Around 48,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the UK, and more than 11,000 die from it.
Prostate cancer symptoms
Spotting the symptoms of prostate cancer is also important. Sympotms don’t usually occur until the cancer has grown large enough to out pressure on the tube that carris urine from the bladder out of the penis, known as the urethra.
When this happens, the NHS says the following symptms may appear:
- Needing to pee more frequently, often during the night
- Needing to rush to the toilet
- Difficulty in starting to pee (hesitancy)
- Straining or taking a long time while peeing
- Weak flow
- Feeling that your bladder has not emptied fully
- Blood in urine or blood in semen
These symptoms don’t always mean you have prostate cancer, but you should always see your GP who can rule any serious causes out.
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