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Prostate cancer biopsies linked to risk of serious infection

May 06, 2011|By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Prostate biopsies may spread bacteria. A new report suggests that such illnesses are on the rise.
Prostate biopsies may spread bacteria. A new report suggests that such… (Robert Durell / Los Angeles…)

The specter of prostate cancer is alarming enough – and it just got even more alarming. Some doctors are reporting that men who get biopsies for prostate cancer may be putting themselves at risk for infection by drug-resistant bacteria.

The reported trend is outlined in this Bloomberg article:

“Among the millions of men tested for prostate cancer around the world each year, doctors are detecting an alarming trend: An increasing number of patients are getting sick from potentially lethal, drug-resistant infections. Studies emerging during the past year have uncovered that a small, yet growing percentage of those undergoing routine needle biopsy tests are becoming critically ill and dying from bacterial infections.”

The article explains that the needle used to perform such a biopsy is sent through the rectum on its way to the prostate. This is done repeatedly during one procedure, creating the risk that bacteria from the bowel is moved into the prostate, bladder and beyond.

The authors refer to almost a half-dozen recent studies establishing the link between prostate biopsies and infection and say that at least 10 more are in the works.

These studies -- and, of course, the story itself -- will likely add to the debate about the merits of prostate cancer screenings, which lead men to undergo biopsies to check an abnormal result. As this HealthKey article “PSA Tests and the Risk of Overdiagnosis” notes:

“In a 2009 study, researchers found that use of the PSA test led to 1.3 million American men being diagnosed and more than a million treated — ‘all for a cancer that was never going to bother them,’ says study author Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a physician and professor at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H."

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