Prostate Cancer | What Tests are Available For Detection
Who Is More at Risk, Why Don’t We Have a Screening Program For All Men, How Is It Diagnosed, What Treatments are Available
The prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland located under the bladder and surrounding the urethra. The gland is part of the male reproductive system and is mainly responsible for the production of semen – the fluid that carries the sperm.
The formation of a tumor (abnormal, malignant cell growth) is referred to as prostate cancer. Sometimes the abnormal uncontrolled cell growth does not remain confined and may start to spread.
Prostate Cancer is generally a slowly progressing disease; the majority of men do not experience any marked symptoms and live with it for the rest of their lives without it spreading to other parts of the body and becoming life-threatening. However, high-grade cancer can spread very quickly and can prove to be fatal, therefore early diagnosis and management is the key to survival.
What Tests are Available for Detection of Prostate Cancer?
It is often very hard to detect since it normally grows very slowly and does not cause any other health problems. Moreover, some of the tests (such as PSA used for early screening of prostate cancer) may not yield accurate results and can prove to be misleading. This can lead to unnecessary treatment which can result in nasty side effects.
The most commonly used tests for detection are PSA blood test and digital rectal examination. However, both of these test do not diagnose, they are only helpful for detecting changes in the prostate gland.
- Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Blood Test
PSA is actually a protein made by the prostate cells as well as by cancerous cells. In order to measure the levels of PSA, a blood test is used. If the results of the blood test are above the normal range for your age or if they are rising rapidly, this may indicate the possibility of cancer. A high PSA level does not necessarily mean cancer since other prostate diseases can also raise the PSA levels in the blood.
- Digital Rectal Examination (DRE)
Although not recommended as a routine test for men with no symptoms, the DRE is used to check the size, shape, and any abnormalities. DRE can be uncomfortable for some patients, but it is rarely painful. The examiner inserts a gloved lubricated finger into the rectum to probe any abnormalities. Presence of abnormalities does not always indicate prostate cancer, similarly, the absence of any abnormalities also does not rule out the chances of prostate cancer.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan
A specialised type of MRI is used for men suspected of having prostate cancer; it is called the mpMRI or multi-parametric MRI scan. The mpMRI combines the results of three MRI scans to show a clearer image of the abnormal areas. The mpMRI scan is usually recommended to help work out if a biopsy is needed and on which area to perform a biopsy (if needed). The mpMRI scan is also used to find out whether cancer has spread from the prostate to other nearby areas.
If the results of the above tests indicate the presence of abnormalities in the prostate, a biopsy is performed. Small amounts of tissues from different parts of the prostate are taken using a specialised needle. These samples are then examined by an expert pathologist to see if cancer cells are present or not.
Who Is More at Risk?
While it is still unclear what causes prostate cancer, your risk of developing prostate cancer can increase because of the following risk factors:
- Age – prostate cancer is most commonly diagnosed in men aged 60-79 and is very rare among men under 45.
- Genetics – a person has a higher risk of developing prostate cancer if his brother or father had it. Certain ethnic groups are at a higher risk because of their genetic makeup. In the US it is 60% more common and deadly among black men than white or non-Hispanic men.
- Geographical Location – people living in North America, the Caribbean Islands, Australia, and northwestern Europe are at an increased risk for reasons unknown.
- Diet – a diet rich in high-fat products or red meat is linked with increased risk of developing prostate cancer, but the links are weak and not confirmed yet.
- Obesity – some studies link obesity to be one of the risk factors of prostate cancer, however, there is no clear-cut evidence linking the two.
- Medication – use of certain medications such as NSAIDs is linked with the reduction of prostate cancer, while some studies suggest the use of NSAIDs to be a high-risk factor of death from this disease.
Why Don’t We Have a Screening Program for All Men?
Screening refers to testing a person for the early stages of cancer or any other disease before he/she starts to experience any symptoms. Screening for cancer patients is usually recommended if:
- the results of the screening tests are reliable
- the benefits would outweigh the risks
- screening tests have good value for money
The simple answer to the question “why don’t we have a screening program for all men” for prostate cancer is that we do not yet have any reliable enough screening test to use. The most commonly used tests for detection of prostate cancer are PSA blood test and digital rectal examination. However, both of these results do not diagnose cancer, they are helpful only for finding out changes in the prostate gland. Moreover, some of the tests (such as PSA used for early screening of prostate cancer) may not yield accurate results and as mentioned before can prove to be misleading.
Prostate Cancer – What Treatments are Available
Depending on your age, health status, and the stage of prostate cancer, your doctor will develop an appropriate treatment plan for you. Since it is a slow progressing cancer, many patients do not experience any symptoms or long-term issues, so treatment is not necessary. Treatment options for men with prostate cancer might include:
- Active Surveillance of Prostate Cancer
- Radiation Therapy
- Hormone Therapy
Southbank Medical Centre
Augmented Reality In Healthcare
Augmented Reality (AR) sounds like something straight out of a science fiction movie, but it’s not as far fetched as you might think. This new wave of AR technology is set to transform the healthcare system, helping doctors to better diagnose patients and improve health related outcomes.
Augmented Reality and The Future of Healthcare
Augmented reality has the potential to transform the medical sector with practical applications such as providing doctors with real time patient data, providing assistance during surgery and provide interactive training tools for new doctors.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality is the process of adding computer generated information onto the user’s view of the real world. Unlike virtual reality, where users are completely immersed in a simulated world, augmented reality aims to enhance our natural environment by overlaying real time digital data helping users better navigate their environment.
One of the most popular applications of this technology can be seen in the popular gaming app, Pokemon Go where users are able to find and catch their favourite characters through the camera on their smartphone.
While the gaming and entertainment industry has played a huge role in the popularity of this technology, there are so many more sectors where AR technology can benefit.
Let’s take a look at the ways Augmented Reality is revolutionising the future of healthcare.
Improve quality of treatment
Simple medical procedures, such as taking blood is already being improved by AR technology. Devices such as AccuVein, can help by illuminating the veins on a patient’s skin so that a vein is easily located before inserting the needle. This helps to alleviate any unnecessary pain and stress that patients might experience, particularly in younger patients.
In addition to routine procedures, AR can also aid in more complex surgical procedures by providing surgeons with quicker access to information, without having to shift their attention from their patient. Vital information can be shown in the doctor’s eyeline while they operate, allowing the doctor to focus with all relevant information about the procedure at hand and can help in reducing patient complications.
Training and Education
Augmented Reality technology gives medical students greater access to training by helping trainee doctors visualise the health conditions that they will one day be treating.
It also helps students transition from theoretical textbooks to practical real world situations through interactive learning, helping trainee doctors to gain practical experience without any of the real-life risks.
Through the use and development of software applications, AR can add interactive elements to medical textbooks. For example transforming a 2D diagram of a heart into an interactive 3D animation that can be enlarged, rotated and investigated much more closely. With the use of AR technology, medical schools can provide a more interactive learning experience which will assist in more comprehensive understanding of how the human body works.
Developments in new wearable technology, like Microsoft’s HoloLens, can provide medical students with a greater understanding on how the different systems of the human body work together. In the past, students would for example need to memorise all the bones in a human skeleton from a textbook. AR can help assist with this arduous process by overlaying anatomical information onto a 3D printed skeleton, allowing students to revise the names of bones more easily, while also providing a better understanding on how the human body works. The following video showcases how these improvements can be used and the benefits to students:
Medical Realities has created a library of surgical videos through Google Glass which enables students to watch an operation through the eyes of the surgeon, giving them invaluable insights and help them to better prepare for the operating theatre.
Being able to sit in on real surgical procedures from the surgeon’s point of view is an invaluable learning tool for trainee doctors and is a lot more cost effective than other training tools such as medical simulators. It is these types of practical applications where AR is providing invaluable knowledge and skills through interactive learning.
With the rollout out of this new technology, AR has the potential to revolutionise the way doctors diagnose and treat patients. The applications for this new technology are endless and we look forward to seeing how Augmented Reality can transform healthcare services in the future.
The Future Of Healthcare: Cancer And The Impact Of Personalised Medicine In Australia
The future of the healthcare system is ever evolving as consumer demands shifts and the advancement of technology rises. More so there has been an increasing focus on personalised medicine in Australia in order to better predict risk for disease or patient responses to treatments. Personalised medicine takes into account genetics, genomics and any other biological information in order to make a well-informed decision regarding the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of human diseases in each patient. Data-driven analytics is revolutionising the healthcare industry by applying what doctors have been doing for years but on a larger scale. The workings of new datasets and existing sciences of epidemiology and clinical medicine working hand in hand allow the healthcare industry to better understand relationships between external factors and human biology resulting in enhanced clinical treatments and truly personalized healthcare for the individual.
Th medical benefits of personalised medicine are tremendous Australia wide, with significantly lower health costs through early prevention of diseases and more targeted treatments. The previous approach of prescribing medicine through a “one size fits all” or trial and error method is outdated as not everyone will react to a drug the same way. While the majority may respond well to a particular drug and dose, some patients may have very little effect or serious side effects from the same medication prescribed. In worst case scenarios it can lead to hospitalization and be a huge contributor to healthcare spending. Personalised healthcare views patients as individuals to help predict the right treatment and medicine with the fewest side effects. This can both tremendously improve the quality of care and decrease healthcare costs at the same time.
Personalised medicine, when coupled with behavioural economic principles, drives patient engagement. Many healthcare problems are behaviorally driven which means they can be potentially preventable. By getting patients involved in the care of their health we empower patients to take better care of their health. As we collect more data on individual’s risk for disease and response to treatment, we can convey this information to patients in order for them to better understand their treatment plan with more confidence based on facts and figures.
At Southgate Medical Centre we recognise the importance of personalised healthcare having a significant impact on the future of healthcare.
Development of Cancer Treatments
In the field of oncology, the impact of personalised medicine Australia wide is particularly evident; specifically targeted treatments are helping cancer patients live longer, healthier and more productive lives. Since the peak of cancer incidences in 1994, the cancer death rate (2014-2017) has increased by about 7.5% whilst the five-year survival rate (2009-2013) has climbed to about 68%.
Cancer is essentially a disease of altered genomics whereby there’s an influx of abnormal growth of cells. As each individual’s molecular makeup is different, every tumour is unique with genes made up of varying sequences of DNA. This explains why not every cancer patient will respond the same way to a treatment. Through genomic sequencing doctors can determine the DNA sequence that makes up the genome of each individual tumour in order to better diagnose what will be the most effective way to target the tumour. Personalised healthcare and personalised medicine is a customised treatment for each patient where targeted treatments are given and the patient’s responses are tracked over time. Cancer treatments that were once before heavily relied on traditional clinical trials are now moving to small sample or one-person trials in order to provide the most effective treatment.
As research develops on individual’s cancer cells, more cancer patients can potentially benefit from personalized approaches. Biomarkers (short for biological markers) play an important role in the prediction or diagnosis of various cancers and have been significant in the development of personalised healthcare. Biomarkers are biological molecules, cells or genes found in blood, other bodily fluids or tissue, that may be assessed to provide more information about a tumour (GI Cancer Institute). Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a common biomarker for mutation in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. The presence of EGFR in a tumour suggests that these patients are more likely to respond to medicines that inhibit the EGFR pathway. Cancer biomarkers have enabled progress in the management of various tumours with notable biomarkers being HER2 for breast cancer, KRAS for colorectal cancer and ALK for lung cancer.
Personalised medicine is truly the future of healthcare with the potential to improve the overall survival rate for a range of cancer types and having a meaningful impact for patients. To find out more about how personalized medicine can impact you or your loved ones, book a consultation with one of our expert Southbank Doctors or call 03 9690 1433 and contact us today.
The Future of Healthcare: Implications of Integrating A Cloud Computing Service
Cloud computing systems have been integrated within various industries across the globe with astounding success stories. While the impact of sensitive issues like security breaches and privacy issues are still being debated, the pros of implementing a cloud computing system in the healthcare sector are tremendous.
So what exactly is all the fuss about? Implementing a cloud computing service for the healthcare industry has enormous implications that revolutionize the nature of the industry. The storing of a patient’s medical history and records in a unified manner in a single location, giving authorised health professionals an updated real-time look at a patient’s medical history increases the efficiency of the level of patient care that can be expected. Health information that can be stored includes but is not limited to, current health conditions, allergies, pathology tests, past prescriptions, X-rays etc.
Having a summary of your health-records allows participating healthcare specialists to have access to medical information like pre-existing conditions or blood-type which is especially critical during times of accidents and emergencies. Authorised pharmacists will also be able to check a patient’s allergies before prescribing medication. The storage of information in a single place will mean that a patient’s health records can be accessed via a secure internet connection by a different medical practitioner should the patient choose to move interstate. It is also worth mentioning that with the implementation of a cloud-computing system, individuals will no longer need to worry about having to remember details relating to past medication, dates of medical tests previously taken, etc.
The Australian Government is making headway with Myhealth Record, a national digital health record system, paying special attention to the security and privacy aspects in order to secure sensitive patient data and prevent issues relating to unauthorised access and data loss and theft. Individuals who sign up will have complete control over the kind of information that they wish to share and with whom. Individuals may choose to reveal personal allergies and medical conditions which could help healthcare providers deliver the best type of care suited to your health conditions.
Much has been said about the disadvantages relating to privacy and security issues that individuals may expose themselves to. According to myhealthrecord.gov, individuals who sign up will need to generate a Personal Access Code which the individual’s nominated representative will need to use to access the patient’s health records. This Personal Access Code is valid for only 30 days and a new code if required will need to be regenerated by the individual post the expiry date.
This initiative has been fairly popular with over 5 million Australians already having signed up online, translating to a modest 21% of the overall population of the country according to My Health Records . The Government has also announced in the 2017 edition of the budget that this national health record system will be implemented on a national level starting mid-2018. This move will see a new health record automatically created for you, unless you personally choose to opt-out of the system.
This technology of course has been a blessing, especially for patients who suffer from a number of health conditions and have to regularly visit a number of different healthcare specialists. The unification of a patient’s health records on a single system allow the different specialists involved in the patient’s care to have a coordinated approach towards healthcare.
General Practitioners across the country have willingly welcomed this technological foray into the medical sphere. In the city, doctors at southbank medical centres have seamlessly integrated cloud computing service systems as part of their daily operations. If you wish to have a confidential discussion relating to the implications of having a myhealth record, your attentive healthcare specialists at Southgate Medical Centre are more than willing to guide you.