New Study Finds Prostate Cancer Screening May Have No Benefit

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Prostate FilmA controversy is brewing over the benefits (or lack of benefits) of screening for prostate cancer. Although prostate cancer doesn't affect women directly, it does affect the men we love, and that's why these latest studies on screening are so important for us to understand.

It's not at all uncommon for men to look to the women in their lives (mothers, wives, daughters) for guidance when it comes to medical decisions.  Many of us even know men that refuse to see a doctor without a swift kick from the woman they love. So as the woman in your man's life, you may find these latest studies on the PSA screening for prostate cancer concerning.

In a new study on prostate screening (PSA testing) is pointing to a lack of benefit for men at an average-risk for prostate cancer. 

From BBC News -- Prostate Screening Has No Benefits:

Prostate cancer screening does not save lives, according to a 20-year study, published in the British Medical Journal.
. . .
The report concludes: "After 20 years of follow-up, the rate of death from prostate cancer did not differ significantly between men in the screening group and those in the control group."

From WebMD -- New Doubts on Value of Prostate Cancer Screening:

“We found no survival advantage for screening, but this may have been influenced by the fact that the screening test we used when the trial started is not as sensitive as the tests we use today,” study researcher Gabriel Sandblom, MD, of Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, tells WebMD.

What does all of this mean for the men in your life?  When should men stop worrying about getting PSA screening?  And is there ever a time when having the knowledge of prostate cancer can do more harm than good? 

This is from Med Page Today -- PSA Screening in Older Men Often Unnecessary:

"Excessive screening for prostate cancer in elderly men who have limited life expectancies in the U.S. results in unnecessary anxiety, diagnoses, overtreatment, treatment-related morbidity, and healthcare expenditures without meaningful clinical benefit," the investigators concluded.

. . .

Widespread use of PSA screening for prostate cancer has shaped the landscape of prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment with a double-edged sword, the researchers noted.

On the one hand, over the past two decades the percentage of patients with metastatic prostate cancer at diagnosis has decreased 75% and mortality had declined by 30%.

On the other hand, an estimated 1.3 million men with prostate cancer diagnosed by PSA testing underwent treatment that provided no clinical benefit.

With all of the conflicting information about PSA testing -- How can we help our men make the best decision when it comes to prostate cancer screening?

Clearly there is no cut and dry answer, but I did find a very helpful chart from the Mayo Clinic that seems to be a great place to start.  Prostate Cancer Screening: Should you get a PSA test? According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a number of pros and cons to PSA screening,

PROS OF PSA SCREENING

  • It may detect signs of cancer early, when it's easier to treat and more likely to be cured entirely.
  • It's a simple blood test.
  • According to the Mayo Clinic, "For some men, knowing is better than not knowing. Having the test can provide you with a certain amount of reassurance — either that you probably don't have prostate cancer or that you do have it and can now have it treated."
  • The mortality rate of prostate cancer has decreased since testing has become available.

CONS OF PSA SCREENING

  • PSA tests can return a false positive or fail to detect a real problem.
  • Some cancers never spread beyond the prostate gland, while side effects of prostate cancer treatment can include erectile dysfunction, bowel dysfunction and incontinence. For some cancers and for some people, the treatment risks may outweigh the need.
  • Again according to the Mayo Clinic, "A cancer diagnosis of prostate cancer can provoke anxiety and confusion. Concern that the cancer may not be life-threatening can make decision making complicated."
  • The decrease in prostate cancer death could be attributed to factors other than the test.

So now you know the pros and cons of PSA testing, but ultimately, the final decision about whether or not to get a PSA test should be made by the man in consultation with his physician.

What do you think about these latest finding on PSA screening?  Has there been a man in your life that has gone through this testing and was found to have prostate cancer?  Was it found early enough to be successfully treated?  Do you find that the benefits of this testing outweigh the risks?  Please let us know your thoughts in comments.

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
Also at Catherine-Morgan.com

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