Prostate Health: Speak with Your Doctor about Appropriate Screening Methods
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Earlier this fall, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force said healthy men no longer need to get a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test to screen for prostate cancer. The panel stated the test doesn’t effectively save lives and can lead to needless treatments that can cause pain, impotence and incontinence.
These recommendation statements, made by an independent panel of non-federal experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, composed of primary care providers, contradict advice doctors have issued for years — that men at normal risk for prostate cancer should begin PSA screenings at age 50.
So who’s right?
“We recommend that patients speak with their health care providers about the pros and cons of the PSA test,” says Elisabeth Heath, M.D., director of prostate cancer research at the Karmanos Cancer Center. “The test isn’t always effective in detecting prostate cancer. But that doesn’t give patients license to not seek regular medical care.”
Karmanos also recommends that patients at increased risk for prostate cancer begin screening at age 45.
“This includes African Americans, who have a prostate cancer death rate two to three times greater than men of European descent,” Dr. Heath says. “This also includes men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother or son) who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 65.”
At this time, the PSA test and digital rectal exam are the only ways to screen for prostate cancer.
“Our researchers are actively seeking better screening methods and ways to define aggressive vs. non-aggressive prostate cancer,” Dr. Heath says. “Until we find better disease biomarkers, we encourage men to have a shared decision-making moment with a health care provider. It’s about taking charge of your health.”
For more information about prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment, call 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266).