Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Health Column – The latest on PSA tests for Prostate Cancer.

My father was diagnosed at age 77 with prostate cancer and it was at least stage three. This was twenty-five years ago and the treatment was radiation and lots of it. It gave him time but the last year was very hard on him. The radiation had caused a blood disorder that required him to have a regular blood-transfusions and good naturedly he would present himself at the hospital on the designated Friday.. My father loved his food and the day is significant… they served fish ‘n’ chips.  Eventually he required these transfusions weekly and after a short period of time he passed away aged 80.

Today there have been huge advancements in the detection and treatment of prostate cancer and the prognosis is much improved. But it is dependent on a very important factor and that is early detection.

However, one of the predictive tests for prostate cancer the PSA test is under the microscope following a long study with hundreds of thousands of men. This was in the Daily Mail health column yesterday.

The basic finding is that the PSA test taken by men who are not already symptomatic is unlikely to be accurate and does not save extra lives. Inconclusive results could lead to men being treated unnecessarily for prostate cancer for precautionary reasons, resulting in long term side effects.

There is also the issue of increasing complacency in men who have taken the test and assume they are not at risk, and then ignoring early symptoms.

Thousands of men are needlessly treated for prostate cancer because there is NO reliable test for the disease, concludes decade-long study.

  • Using a PSA blood test in screening programmes does not save extra lives
  • Experts today said there is a ‘desperate need’ for a much better way of screening
  • PSA test shouldn’t be routinely used for men with no signs of problems, they add
  • The Daily Mail has been campaigning for years to end needless prostate deaths

Here is the start of the article and I do suggest that you read the entire piece.

Thousands of men are being needlessly treated for prostate cancer because there is no reliable test for the disease, experts have warned.

A decade-long study involving 415,000 British men lays bare the fundamental flaws of the blood test that forms the cornerstone of the way prostate cancer is diagnosed.

Experts said there is a ‘desperate need’ for a much better way of screening for prostate cancer, in the same way as women are screened for breast cancer with regular mammograms.

Using a ‘prostate specific antigen’ – or PSA – blood test to screen healthy men would not save extra lives, the Oxford and Bristol-led researchers found.

The researchers admitted it remains the only method of testing men who are already showing symptoms.

But they said it should not be routinely used for men with no signs of problems.
Study leader Professor Richard Martin, of Bristol University, said: ‘PSA is currently the only tool we have, but it is a very blunt tool.

‘It detects prostate cancer in men who will not benefit from treatment, but is misses aggressive cancer in men who do need treatment.’

The Daily Mail is campaigning to end needless prostate deaths through better treatments and greater awareness.

Last month official figures revealed rising prostate cancer deaths saw it become a bigger killer than breast cancer for the first time.

The recent study that was published in the Daily Mail: PSA Test study

The important lesson from this is that men and their partners need to be aware of and identify changes in the function of their bodies.

Here is my post on the prostate and cancer that you might find helpful, along with physical signs that you should make a note of and keep in mind.


What is the prostate?

The prostate gland is a very small walnut shaped structure that sits at the base of the bladder and surrounds the ejaculatory ducts at the base of the urethra. Its role is to produce an alkaline fluid that mixes with the semen from the vesicles before it is passed into the penis to be ejaculated. This probably acts as a booster for the sperm keeping them active and therefore more likely to fertilise an egg should the opportunity arise.

Some of the health issues and symptoms to be aware of.

In a young man the prostate is about the size of a walnut and it slowly gets larger as a man matures.

If it gets too large, however, it can begin to cause problems with the urinary tract resulting in frequent urination often with very little urine produced and in some cases discomfort. This is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and is very common in men over 60 years old.

If problems with urination occur especially at night then a doctor should be consulted.

Usually a rectal examination or scans will detect the enlarged prostate and appropriate treatment prescribed. If the enlargement of the prostate and the urination problems are relatively mild then it is usually left for a period of time to see if the normal reduction in testosterone will result in a decrease in the size of the prostate.

If the enlargement of the prostate or the symptoms warrant medical intervention it is usual to prescribe either alpha-blockers (can have some nasty side effects) or a testosterone lowering drug. As the testosterone levels decrease the prostate shrinks and the urination problems are solved. However there can be side effects such as loss of sex drive and possible erectile problems.

In extreme cases surgery may be advised if the urination problem does not improve. It can however result in other problems and should be considered carefully beforehand.

Prostate cancer

Women dread the words breast, ovary or uterine cancer and for men it is prostate cancer. As with most cancers if it is found early then the chances of recovery are very good. Unfortunately the early signs of cancer can be confused with that for an enlarged prostate, which is why it is an excellent idea to consult a doctor the moment you feel there is a change to your urination in any way.

This is especially true if you develop a burning sensation or pain during urination or there is blood present in the urine. Sometimes there could also be blood in semen, pain in the back, hips or pelvis and painful ejaculation. There can also be an innocent and harmless cause of some of these symptoms but it is important to clarify the situation immediately with your doctor.

It is at this point when symptoms are present that the current research has identified that a PSA test can be effective. A blood test determines the levels of Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA). These may be higher in men with either an enlarged prostate or cancer and it is backed up by an ultrasound to establish any abnormalities in the gland.

Usually a biopsy is necessary to confirm the diagnosis and is commonly done by the doctor under local anaesthetic.


These days if the cancer is in the early stages and slow growing it will be monitored regularly to determine if the next stage in the treatment is necessary. Treatments are being refined and reviewed continually and your doctor will have the latest information at hand.

The most common type of surgery is a radical prostatectomy where the whole prostate and some surrounding tissue is removed. This may result in loss of sexual function or urinary problems that may not correct themselves. There is a modified operation that reduces the risk of nerve damage and therefore impotence that some men will be offered if appropriate.

Radiation treatment is used in some cases prior to surgery to kill cancerous cells and shrink the tumour and following surgery to ensure that all harmful cells have been eliminated. There are two kinds of radiation, externally beamed into the prostate and internally where radioactive “seeds” are placed in the prostate itself, into or near the actual tumour. There can be some side effects with this treatment including impotence and incontinence, which will have to be managed in the long term.

Following radiation, patients may be offered hormonal treatment to prevent the cancer from reoccurring or if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. This will usually result in menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes as well as a loss of sexual desire.

Now to a different perspective on prostate cancer treatment.

This in no way negates the need to get checked, as a physical examination is key to determining if there is a problem with the prostate. Whilst unpleasant (and trust me we women have equally invasive examinations) a few minutes of embarrassment or discomfort is better than years of treatment and doubt about the outcome.

Today treatments are targeted very specifically in the area affected and as you will read a different approach to beginning treatment is usually followed if the cancer is in the very early stages. A ‘watch carefully and wait and see’ strategy is particularly relevant if the patient is in their late 70s and 80s as certain cancers have a less aggressive growth pattern as we age.

Do read the article so that should you face a diagnosis of prostate cancer you can ask all the right questions to ensure that you explore all the options available. Be aware that different consultants have their own approach to specific cancers and whilst the ‘wait and see’ strategy is widely adopted in the UK it may be very different where you live.

My opinion is that everyone should have a basic understanding of their body and how the various organs work.

This particularly applies to gender specific health concerns such as breast and prostate cancer.

Anything that is unusual in your long term functions that lasts more than a few days, and which results in symptoms such as those I describe above, need to be investigated by a doctor.

This series is not intended to be used as a diagnostic tool..It is however a recommendation to find out about areas of the body which are at risk and to ensure that you notice changes that occur.. Nobody else can do that except perhaps someone close to you. This is why it is so important for partners to also keep an eye out for changes in habits that might indicate that there is a problem.

The sooner that prostate cancer is diagnosed the better the outcome. Get Checked.

©Sally Cronin 2018

A bit about my nutritional background.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook from:

And Amazon UK:

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4:

Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally