A blood test which detects aggressive prostate cancer could prevent thousands of men having painful, unnecessary biopsies. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

London - A blood test which detects aggressive prostate cancer could prevent thousands of men having painful, unnecessary biopsies.

The simple test, which diagnosed almost 93 percent of men with the disease correctly in a trial, could be available within three to five years.

Currently men suspected of having the disease are given a blood test to look for raised levels of a protein called PSA. In more than half of cases the level is up for another reason, such as an enlarged prostate.

But these men still have a follow-up biopsy – where tissue is removed – unnecessarily, which risks bleeding and infection. In three percent of cases the procedure can lead to life-threatening sepsis.

The new test, which picks up cancer cells that have shed into the blood, was trialled on 155 men with prostate cancer and 98 with high PSA levels who had not yet been given a biopsy.

Researchers found, in combination with the PSA test, it correctly identified 86 percent with prostate cancer. When 12 genes linked to prostate cancer were also searched for, the accuracy hit almost 93 percent.

Study author Professor Yong-Jie Lu, of Queen Mary University of London, said: "The current prostate cancer test often leads to unnecessary, invasive biopsies and over-diagnosis and over-treatment of many men, causing significant harm to patients and a waste of valuable healthcare resources...

"Testing for circulating tumour cells is efficient, non-invasive and potentially accurate."

The PSA test currently used in GP surgeries is unreliable, leading scientists to look for other methods, from MRI scans to blood tests, to more accurately diagnose them.

Daily Mail