New study reasserts the importance of PSA testing for men

Recent controversy over prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing for prostate cancer has left many men confused. In May 2012, a report was released with new government guidelines regarding PSA testing. The guidelines discouraged the use of the blood test that looks for PSA in high levels as an indication of prostate cancer. This controversial statement has been challenged by many medical professional who reassert the need for this testing.

The new guidelines

In the new guidelines, the concern was that with routine PSA testing, men were being unnecessarily treated for small tumors that were not life-threatening. With treatments such as surgery to remove the tumor and radiation therapy, patients sometimes risk complications for a tumor that would have been fine if left alone. This study found that only about one out of 1,000 men would survive prostate cancer because of a PSA test discovery.

The recommendation was met immediately with opposition from many doctors and cancer survivors. They warned that skipping PSA testing might be more dangerous than having the testing done. They also felt that the new guidelines were irresponsible because there was no other testing method more effective than PSA testing for men.

Warnings against skipping PSA testing

Now, a new study published in American Cancer Society's journal Cancer, warns of the dangers of doing away with PSA testing. The new study asserts that without routine PSA testing, approximately 17,000 men would learn they had prostate cancer at the late metastatic stage, when it is less curable. This delayed diagnosis could cause many deaths.

The study compared data on prostate cancer cases from 1983 to 1985, before PSA testing started, to more recent data from 2006 to 2008 when screening for PSA was common. Researchers looked at the rates of metastatic prostate cancer during these different time periods. In 2008, the researchers noted that 8,000 men were diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer with no previous prostate cancer diagnose. Using a mathematical formula, they estimated that without screening, 25,000 men would be diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer. Therefore, they concluded that there would be 17,000 more late-stage diagnosis' if men did not continue to be screened.

Many doctors and others involved in this study assert that PSA testing should continue to be routinely performed because it can catch the cancer early enough to possibly prevent death. It is recommended that men make an educated decision about PSA testing and speak with their doctors about the possible risks and complications as well as the risks of skipping testing.

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