New scan helps Mayo doctors spot cancer’s early return

Published 11:30 am Wednesday, December 5, 2012

By Lorna Benson, Minnesota Public Radio News

When treating cancer patients who suffer a second bout of the disease, doctors know catching the recurrence soon is crucial to the patient’s chances of survival.

But that’s been a challenge with prostate cancer, because doctors depend on a test that measures levels of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, in the blood. PSA is a protein produced by prostate cells, and when men have prostate cancer their levels of the protein are often elevated.

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In men with recurrent disease, rising PSA levels can suggest that their cancer isn’t cured.

“It’s like a puff of smoke that’s signifying an early fire,” said Dr. Eugene Kwon, urologist at Mayo Clinic who treats patients with advanced prostate cancer.

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