The very thought of a needle biopsy of the prostate kind of makes me cringe, but if there’s a chance a person has cancer, you kind of want to know for sure. The thing that has always struck me about the needle biopsy method is that the size of the samples are small. They are also spread out because generally there isn’t a real good idea where the cancer is located.

Very often, with a mildly elevated psa, the amount and size of the cancer is miniscule. That’s really good news in that finding cancer when it is in very early stages greatly increases the chances of succesfully treating the cancer. The problem is that, being so small, it is not uncommon for a needle biopsy to miss the cancer. The doctors are pretty sure something is going on, but they aren’t likely to talk the patient into a second round of needle sticks because they couldn’t find anything the first time.

Another problem with the needle biopsy is a situation called needle tracking. This occurs when the doctor is fortunate enough to hit the cancer, thus obtaining a sample, but then drags a cancer contaminated needle back through the wall of the prostate effectively depositing what was a contained cancer outside the prostate.

There is a new diagnostic tool called an MRI-Spectroscopy (MRI-S). the non invasive procedure has shown in tests to be about 75% effective in locating prostate cancer, compared to about 30% for the random needle biopsy method. Once the cancer is located and road mapped, the needle biopsy no longer becomes random, but rather a specifically targeted removal of cancerous cells.

That still leaves the problem of “needle tracking”, but the less times a guy is poked, the less likely that the tracking will occur. Overall this seems like great news.

There was one statement in the article that begs a little more study. “In fact, data from the Detroit Autopsy Study and Memorial Sloan- Kettering shows 30% of 30 year old men have prostate cancer.” If that’s true, probably 110% of guys my age have it. I will check that statement elsewhere and bring it up again.

Bottom line. Nearly 500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every day. About 90 die from it every day. The earlier the cancer is detected, the higher the survival rate. From a life insurance standpoint, early detection generally will lead to a lower stage and grade of cancer. Post treatment, a low stage and grade prostate cancer is one of the more insurable cancers out there.