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New Test Unveiled In San Diego Could Change Prostate Cancer Treatment

Aired 5/9/13 on KPBS News.

By telling doctors how aggressive a patient's prostate cancer is, a new test could help more men decide to forgo aggressive — and sometimes unnecessary — treatments.

A new genetic test for prostate cancer could help more men decide to forgo treatment.

The test was unveiled in San Diego this Wednesday, at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA). It tells doctors just how aggressive a patient's prostate cancer is.

Eric Klein of the Cleveland Clinic says advances in genetic testing will help prostate cancer patients avoid costly, damaging, and often unnecessary treatments.

In many cases, prostate cancer won't shorten a man's life, but men often opt for aggressive treatments anyway. These treatments can lead to incontinence and impotency.

The new test aims to prevent such unnecessary measures. The company behind it, California-based Genomic Health, is putting it on the market less than a week after the AUA recommended men under 55 stop getting routinely screened for prostate cancer through PSA tests.

Eric Klein of the Cleveland Clinic was involved in the research leading to development of the gene test.

"Screening identifies a lot of cancers that don't need to be treated," he said. "Now we think we have a tool that does a better job in helping us identify those that don't need treatment."

The test comes at a price though. It's nearly $4,000. But Genomic Health says that this up-front cost will still save money in the long-run by preventing unnecessary treatments further down the road.

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