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News2004January › PSA: is this a test that has had its day? › January 2004

PSA: is this a test that has had its day?

*PSA: is this a test that has had its day? The prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test fails to recognise eight out of every 10 cases of prostate cancer

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*PSA: is this a test that has had its day? The prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test fails to recognise eight out of every 10 cases of prostate cancer. Researchers from Harvard Medical School analysed the test results of 6691 men who had undergone a PSA screening test, and discovered that it had failed to spot 82 per cent of cases of cancer (N Engl J Med, 2003; 349: 335-42).

* A positive attitude can help you survive surgery Scientists have discovered that patients are more likely to die after coronary bypass surgery if they are depressed, and the risk of death increases with the depth of the depression. After a five-year follow-up of 817 patients who had undergone bypass heart surgery, the researchers found that, of the 122 patients who died, those who had suffered deep depression were nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to die. The risk dropped to a likelihood of just over two times among patients with only mild depression (Lancet, 2003; 362: 604-9).

* Why home birth could be best An investigation of seven maternity units in the UK found that all were seriously understaffed, and the level of skill among the hospital midwives was very mixed. In the short time spent at each unit, the researchers noted many 'near-misses', or accidents that almost happened, that could have proved disastrous for either the mother or baby involved (BMJ, 2003; 327: 584-6).

* Hospitals: where you can go to become ill Hospitals are dangerous places - as new research has now confirmed. Well over 30,000 patients die in American hospitals every year as a result of some medical mishap, and 167,000 will suffer a serious injury that will, at the very least, extend their stay in hospital. The researchers conceded that the situation is far worse than reported - but just how bad is anyone's guess (JAMA, 2003; 290: 1868-74).


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