A new test under development in the U.K. may be a game changer when it comes to prostate cancer treatment.

A big challenge in treating prostate cancer is knowing if and when surgery is needed. The current method of assessment involves looking at a biopsy of the tumor under a microscope, but the biopsy can have significant side effects such as infertility, erectile dysfunction and urination disorders.

Professor Dan Berney, a researcher at Queen Mary University of London, and one of the developers of the new test said, "We need a better test as we are over-treating many men; most will die with, not of, prostate cancer. We need to discriminate between the aggressive forms and those that will grumble along."

The test, which was recently presented at the National Cancer Research Institute conference, may be able to indicate the aggressiveness level of a tumor, giving both doctors and patients better information when it comes to treating the cancer. The test looks at the activity level of genes inside the tumor and can tell the difference between aggressive and slow-growing tumors.

Researchers hope that its use will prevent thousands of unnecessary surgeries each year.

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