A new genetic test goes on sale Wednesday that gauges the aggressiveness of prostate cancer. That may help tens of thousands of men each year decide whether they need to treat their cancer right away or can safely monitor it.
The test joins another one that recently came on the market. Both analyze multiple genes in a biopsy sample and give a score for aggressiveness. They're similar to tests used now for certain breast and colon cancers.
Doctors say tests like these have the potential to curb a major problem in cancer care -- overtreatment. Prostate tumors usually grow so slowly they'll never threaten a man's life, but some prove fatal.
Treatment with surgery, radiation or hormone blockers isn't needed in most cases and can cause impotence or incontinence.
A study led by Dr. Peter Carroll, chairman of urology at the University of California, San Francisco, suggests that the genetic test could triple the number of men who may only have to monitor their prostate cancer.
The tests are expensive though, and at $3,400 for the least expensive one, it's unknown if insurers will pay for it without evidence it leads to better care or saving lives.
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