Experts Question Prostate Cancer Screening Benefits

Armen Hareyan's picture
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A report published in the August 5, 2008 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine says that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has played down the benefits of prostate cancer screening for men above the age of 75.

According to the report, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is updating its 2002 report on prostate cancer screening recommendations.

The latest recommendation warns against routine prostate cancer screening for men over the age of 75 and USPSTF also says that further research and evidence is needed to establish if men under the age of 75 could benefit from prostate cancer screening.

Figures show that prostrate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States. One in six American men is affected by prostrate cancer which is also common non-skin cancer in America.

Whereas the Measurement of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood can detect prostate cancer before symptoms develop, the Task Force says that there is no satisfactory evidence which shows that the tests give long term health benefits.

The USPSTF chair Ned Calonge said that they had “carefully reviewed the available evidence to measure the benefits and harms of screening for prostate cancer and could not find adequate proof that early detection leads to fewer men dying of the disease."

The report also quoted Ned as saying "At this point, we recommend that men concerned about prostate cancer talk with their health care providers to make a decision based on their individual risk factors and personal preference."

The full recommendations of the report are published in the August 5, 2008 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine which is one of the most cited peer-reviewed medical journals in the whole world.

Prostate Cancer Screening Risks - Provided by National Cancer Institute

Risks of Prostate Cancer Screening

Key Points for This Section

* Screening tests have risks.
* The risks of prostate screening include the following:
o Finding prostate cancer may not improve health or help a man live longer.
o Follow-up tests, such as a biopsy, may be done to diagnose cancer.
o False-negative test results can occur.
o False-positive test results can occur.

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Screening tests have risks.

Decisions about screening tests can be difficult. Not all screening tests are helpful and most have risks. Before having any screening test, you may want to discuss the test with your doctor. It is important to know the risks of the test and whether it has been proven to reduce the risk of dying from cancer.

The risks of prostate screening include the following:

Finding prostate cancer may not improve health or help a man live longer.

Screening may not improve your health or help you live longer if you have cancer that has already spread to the area outside of the prostate or to other places in your body.

Some cancers never cause symptoms or become life-threatening, but if found by a screening test, the cancer may be treated. It is not known if treatment of these cancers would help you live longer than if no treatment were given, and treatments for cancer may have serious side effects.

Follow-up tests, such as a biopsy, may be done to diagnose cancer.

If a PSA test is higher than normal, a biopsy of the prostate may be done. Complications from a biopsy of the prostate may include fever, pain, blood in the urine or semen, and urinary tract infection. Even if a biopsy shows that a patient does not have prostate cancer, he may worry more about developing prostate cancer in the future.

False-negative test results can occur.

Screening test results may appear to be normal even though prostate cancer is present. A man who receives a false-negative test result (one that shows there is no cancer when there really is) may delay seeking medical care even if he has symptoms.

False-positive test results can occur.

Screening test results may appear to be abnormal even though no cancer is present. A false-positive test result (one that shows there is cancer when there really isn't) can cause anxiety and is usually followed by more tests, (such as biopsy) which also have risks.

Your doctor can advise you about your risk for prostate cancer and your need for screening tests.

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