Detecting Prostate Ca Overdiagnosis
Use of a “nomogram,” – a calculating device for prediction – can estimate individual risks that a screen-detected prostate cancer has been overdiagnosed, according to a study done at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and published January 6th 2014 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
A release from the publisher notes that the authors used a standard definition of overdiagnosis to refer to a cancer that would not have become symptomatic or clinically identifiable if it had not been detected by screening. Overdiagnosed cancers do not pose a risk to the patient and do not require treatment, which is associated with significant risks of impotence and incontinence. Previous studies have estimated the risk of overdiagnosis for the US population, with results ranging from 23% to 42% of screen detections. However, risks of overdiagnosis can vary considerably depending on the patient's age and tumor characteristics, highlighting the need for a personalized tool to predict the likelihood of overdiagnosis. The nomogram incorporated age, Gleason score (a tool for assessing stages of prostate cancer), and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level at diagnosis.
Roman Gulati, M.S and colleagues developed the overdiagnosis nomogram to help patients and clinicians make informed treatment decisions about screen-detected prostate cancers. The authors used a microsimulation model to generate virtual life histories for a representative population of US men between 1975 and 2005. Men who develop cancer can be detected based on elevated PSA levels or development of symptoms. The model used prostate cancer incidence data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registry to estimate risks of prostate cancer progression and detection in the absence and presence of PSA screening. A prediction model was then developed to predict individual chances of overdiagnosis (i.e., the chance that other-cause death would precede diagnosis in the absence of PSA screening) given information known at screen detection. The prediction model estimates that the chances of overdiagnosis range from 2.9% to 88.1% depending on patient age, PSA, and Gleason score.
The authors wrote: "It is hoped that the resulting nomogram, tailored to individual patient characteristics known at diagnosis, will provide useful information for patients and their physicians seeking to weigh the likely harms and benefits of the treatment options available for contemporary screen-detected prostate cancers."