PCA3 Test for Prostate Cancer

What is PCA3?

The PCA3 gene exists in all prostates and cause non-cancerous cells to produce trace levels of specific proteins. In cancerous prostates, these protein levels increase by as much as 60-100%¹ and leak into a patient’s urine where they become detectable; this way, the PCA3 test can indicate the possible presence of prostate cancer.

What is the PCA3 test?

When screening for prostate cancer the PCA3 test provides more accuracy than the PSA test alone because PCA3 levels are unaffected in non-cancerous conditions, cancer can be identified with greater accuracy.

The two-part PCA3 test incorporates a urine test and rectal examination. Firstly, a health professional will carry out a rectal examination to feel for lumps before a urine test, they may also massage the prostate to encourage more PCA3 proteins to enter the urine.

PCA3 Prostate Test
Credit: Getty Images Ltd.

Should I have a PCA3 test?

Expert guidelines suggest that the early detection of cancer should begin with a visit to your doctor or urologist, to discuss personal risk and the pros and cons of assessment, screening and diagnosis.

Patient’s with close relatives who have had prostate cancer are more prone to the disease, as are African American men or those with BRCA gene mutations.

The PCA3 test has proven more successful than two different PSA tests. Combining negative PCA3 test results with both a rectal examination and MRI scan, could help avoid needless prostate biopsies, while gauging a patient’s likelihood of having significant or aggressive prostate cancer. Additionally, PCA3 levels are often much higher in patients with aggressive tumours.

PCA3 results what should I know?

The PCA3 test is a newer, promising form of screening for prostate cancer and although the effectiveness of combined testing is still under development, it’s hoped that test accuracy will continue to increase with ongoing research. The non-standard test isn’t widely used and is usually ordered following abnormal PSA test results.

Although no special preparations are required , you should check your insurance policy beforehand. Additional testing such as a biopsies, trans-rectal ultrasounds or MRI scans may also be required. There are pros and cons of having tests and associated assessment, screening and diagnosis. Join a support group and always feel free to talk to a healthcare specialist to address any concerns.

¹Urological Sciences Research Foundation, Department of Urology, Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, 2008 Summer; 10(3): 175–181

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