Taking a summer study break to put her heart and mind into critical research, medical student Mann Ang from the University of Adelaide has made some exciting findings into clinical outcomes for men with prostate cancer by investigating PSA levels. This important research will allow urologists to better understand a patient’s chance of survival at the time of their diagnosis.
A PSA test is the blood test ordered by GPs to determine if a man is at risk of prostate cancer. If their level is low, anything under 3.0, this is typically a reassuring sign there is no cancer present.
For men whose PSA is at a higher level, this means they are at a higher risk of prostate cancer and may require further testing. Mann explained that importantly a high PSA can be attributed to a number of differing circumstances and does not always indicate cancer as it could be from ageing, an enlarged prostate or a benign mass. If it’s a suspicious hard mass then patients would need to have a biopsy.
If tests do confirm a patient has prostate cancer, this is when the clinician will action treatment depending on the cancer state and disease progression, which is partly influenced by a man’s PSA level at the time.
“What is still unknown to clinicians is if there is a significant difference in survival rate between men who have a PSA over 100, compared to those with smaller levels,” Mann said.
“My research aimed to determine if there was a difference in these outcomes for men with a PSA level between 20 and 100, compared to men with a PSA over 100. High PSA readings usually mean prostate cancer is not curable, and there is a higher risk of a cancer death than with much lower readings.”
Through her research Mann discovered men diagnosed with prostate cancer who have a PSA of 700 at diagnosis, will live as long as men who have a PSA level of 300, even though both groups are not able to be cured. Interestingly, this is in stark contrast to patients who are in the lower level range, where the difference between 5 and 12 has a significant impact on risk factor.
This knowledge will play a crucial role in counselling patients and in determining the best treatment options for the individual patient and what their future may hold.
For Mann, this project has sparked her interest in urology and the important role translational research plays to improve the quality of life of men living with prostate cancer.
“Research really benefits clinical management, the whole process is exciting and patients really appreciate what you do for them. I’m now looking to pursue a career in radiation oncology.”
Mann’s research was coordinated with the help of a Freemasons Centre for Men’s Health scholarship through the South Australian Prostate Cancer Clinical Outcomes Collaborative (SA-PCCOC), a database providing clinicians and researchers with access to the valuable information of men being treated for prostate cancer in hospitals across the state. Australian Prostate Cancer is very proud to support this database, which has been hailed a ‘national treasure’.
You can feel proud knowing your support makes this database and Mann’s research possible. You’re improving the quality of life of men today diagnosed with prostate cancer. Thank you!