Sunday, May 27, 2012

Screening for Prostate Cancer Not Recommended

In a draft statement issued last fall, the Unites States Preventive Services Task Force recommended that men over the age of 75 not be screened for prostate cancer with the PSA blood test. Their argument was that prostate cancer is so slow-growing that the test was likely to do more harm than good in older men. But for men under 75 (and that’s most of us), the evidence regarding the usefulness of the PSA test was considered inconclusive.

This month, however, the task force took a much firmer stance against routine screening for prostate cancer. Its recommendation is now unequivocal; healthy men need not be screened for prostate cancer with the PSA test, regardless of age. According to the task force there is “a moderate or high certainty that the service has no net benefit or that the harms outweigh the benefits”. The task force also suggests that physicians should “discourage the use of this practice” (routine screening with the PSA test.)

The task force makes no recommendation regarding the use of the PSA test for surveillance of prostate cancer once it has been diagnosed. But healthy men, at least, can now skip the test and not feel guilty.

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