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Tuesday, March 17, 2009 | Kudos to voiceofsandiego.org for running Randy Dotinga’s well-written stories, “Me and My Genome.”
I signed up for the Scripps Navigenics test in December after reading the first installment of this series. I haven’t got my Scripps Navigenics results back yet, but reading Dotinga’s second installment gives me some perspective on how to react to the “news” when I receive it. Like the author of the story, I am concerned about colon cancer and prostate cancer — most people are since they are leading killers of men.
I am reminded of an old saying that a physician once told me — “if a man lives long enough he will die of prostate cancer” — unlike breast cancer which does not affect most women, every man will eventually get prostate cancer if he does not die of some other problem first.
I had a series of routine prostate tests for “serum PSA” which showed an increase over time. I’ve learned that PSA levels can be influenced by a variety of factors — increased sexual activity correlates with increased PSA levels, so I wasn’t feeling TOO bad about MY increase in PSA, if you catch my meaning. Anyway, my Scripps Clinic urologist recommended a more specific test, developed by San Diego’s own Gen-Probe, that is offered by the Molecular Profiling Institute. The urine test measures the expression of mRNA from the PCA3 gene — if I remember correctly from college biology, RNA stands for “recombinant nucleic acid. As one of the Scripps researchers says in the article — having a gene is one thing, but how the gene is “read” is another factor.
A layperson can think of RNA being produced when DNA is “read” — see also this.
The test was not covered by my medical insurance, so I paid a few hundred dollars out of my pocket.
But my test was negative, thank you very much.
And with this result, my doctor and I decided against a biopsy to check for prostate cancer. The point of my story is simple: If you have a higher genetic risk, and another factor, like elevated PSA, then you might be smart to do other things, like more sophisticated tests or rigorous life style changes.