If you’re a wife or have a father, brother or older son, then this post is for you.
If you didn’t know, prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in men, with an expected 28,000 deaths in 2012, which means screening is extremely important. The Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test is the standard screening test utilized for prostate cancer screening. (Newer tests are not widely available, and their efficacies have not been sufficiently studied.) PSA screening is very common for prostate cancer; however, it recently has become controversial, and hence, the topic for today’s post.
Today’s issue began when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released a new recommendation statement on May 21, 2012. The organization reviewed the benefits and harms of PSA screening, as well as the benefits and harms of treatment of prostate cancer. The USPSTF then recommended against PSA-based screening for prostate cancer. (This recommendation applies to men in the general U.S. population regardless of age and does not include the use of PSA for surveillance after diagnosis or treatment of prostate cancer.)
Before you think this is the end of the story on PSA screening, let’s look at the USPSTF reasoning. The study stated that PSA screening will save the life of just one man in 1,000 tested. Also, it found just one man for every 3,000 tested will die prematurely from prostate cancer treatment.
But how would you feel if that one man was someone you loved?
Therefore, not every medical society or health care provider is in agreement with those recommendations. For one, the American Urological Association (AUA) disputes the panel’s recommendations. The AUA believe men who have a 10 to 15 life year expectancy should have the choice to be tested. Also, there is evidence that PSA testing saves lives. There has been a 40 percent reduction in prostate cancer specific deaths in the U.S. over the past 20 years. More than 50 percent of this reduction is due to screening. Data has shown that the number of cancers that would need to be detected to prevent just one death has now dropped to 37.
The PSA test is not a perfect test by any means, but at this time, it’s the best in medicine.
Patients should be counseled about their prostate cancer risk and then be allowed to make an informed decision regarding PSA testing to screen for prostate cancer. If there’s an important adult man in your life, please ask him to bring up the topic of PSA testing the next time he sees a physician.