US Panel: Healthy Man Do Not Need Routine Prostate Cancer Screening

Cancer Misdiagnosis

The US Preventative Services Task Force provided a draft recommendation for public comment this week surprisingly stating that routine screening for prostate cancer does not help save the lives of healthy men. They continued that it often triggers the need for more tests and treatments actually.

These statements come from five clinical trials and conclude that healthy men of all ages without any adverse symptoms should avoid a prostate-specific antigen test, which measures the level of the protein in the blood. The reason? Just how yesterday I noted that some breast cancer screenings result in false positives, which result in more tests and more treatment. Other tests, such as ultrasound or digital rectal exams were also found to not be effective.

It is important to note that the recommendations do not, however, mean someone who has had prostate cancer or who has symptoms of it should not get tested. In fact, the panel recommended aggressive monitoring for those patients, which reasonably should extend to individuals who have a family history of it as well.

Immediately there was pushback because early state prostate cancer actually doesn’t have any symptoms. By the time you actually begin to experience such symptoms, it may already be too late.

This is a classic example of the tension between health care costs and health care treatment.

Is this a good idea though? I do not know how I feel about this. Part of me thinks that the agony of having multiple false positives throughout my life will certainly NOT outweigh the agony of having a positive diagnosis when it is too late if I didn’t get tests. Money is just a figure, it is material, and it can be replaced; my health at the late stage of an aggressive disease cannot. Particularly coupled with the fact that prostate cancer can be quite harmless if treated early and aggressively. However, caught too late it is rarely harmless and very dangerous. However, the other part of me understands that I am a lawyer and not a doctor-whom the panel is presumably composed of-and they would best be equipped to make this decision. Especially if they think that some screening is not even effective and could cause overtreatment, which could do more harm than good.

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