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Benefits vs. harms of prostate cancer screening

According to government advisory panel’s final report, doctors should no longer offer the PSA prostate cancer screening test to healthy men because they’re more likely to be harmed by the blood draw – and the chain of medical interventions that often follows -than be helped. Task force chairwomen, Virginia Moyer, a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine inHouston,TXstated, “That’s because the PSA, which measures protein called prostate-specific antigen, often leads to unnecessary needle biopsies for men who don’t actually have cancer. Even worse, those biopsies lead many men to be treated for slow-growing cancers that never needed to be found and that are basically harmless.” Virginia Moyer hopes that physicians stop mentioning the PSA screening when seeing their patients.

Ian Thompson, chairman of urology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and spokesman for the American Urological Association commented, “Unfortunately, there are no other better tests with which to replace the PSA, such as rectal exams, ultrasounds or variations on the PSA.” Thompson also stated how he supported some of the task force’s recommendations, such as its call to do away with mass prostate cancer screenings in shopping malls and parking lots, but think they are going too far in rejecting the PSA test completely. Thompson does not want to go back to the “bad old days” before screening when doctors found prostate cancer only after it had become incurable.

CPC supports men having yearly prostate screenings to detect prostate cancer. Early detection is the key to curing prostate cancer. Prostate cancer screenings, which include the PSA blood test and digital rectal exam, help detect prostate cancer in the earlier stages. Patients should be able to get all of the information possible to make an informed decision regarding their health. The above article states: “Because doctors today often can’t tell a harmless tumor from an aggressive one, they end up treating most men with prostate cancer the same, says Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, which takes a neutral stand on the PSA.” We don’t know which ones are ‘harmless’ and which ones are ‘aggressive’, so that’s the problem, we don’t want to leave the aggressive ones untreated.

Also, the article only mentions the risk of death and side effects of surgery. Options such as brachytherapy have far less side effects and risk of death.

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