PSA (prostate specific antigen) testing has been under review for quite some time. Does this screening test really save lives? Apparently not according to the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF). You probably remember this organization from the 2009 controversy about mammogram screening.
The US. Preventative Services Task Force had already recommended against testing men older than 75, claiming that the potential risks outweighed the benefits. The issue was whether testing younger men would be any different.
The Task Force came to this conclusion by reviewing scientific literature about PSA screening including studies and treatment. After about 10 years, the results showed small or no reduction in prostate cancer-specific mortality and was associated with risks of treatment. What does that mean?
It means according to the USPSTF, The PSA test does not save lives and can lead to unnecessary treatments that can cause impotence, incontinence and other complications. Even if prostate cancer is found, it most likely is benign and would not be the cause of death.
This news has stirred up alot of controversy. Some experts will continue to screen younger men under 65, claiming that screening saves lives. There are others that continue to screen over age 75, especially since prostate cancer is rare under age 50 and most deaths occur after age 75. The problem is that risk of surgery and radiation treatment is most dangerous after age 70.
So what are men to do? Just as it was recommended when the USPSTF stated that mammograms could be avoided in a women’s 40’s, men need to talk to their doctors on whether doing the PSA screening test is a good choice for them. Hopefully, someday we will have screening markers to help determine which cancers are slow-growing and benign, and which ones are aggressive that need treatment.
In the meantime, you will hear more and more about this topic, and the best advice is to talk to your doctor and discuss the pros and cons on whether you should get tested.