Former fed staffer asks: will science finally trump politics on PSA testing?

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Dr. Kenny Lin writes:

On March 10 and 11, the (U.S. Preventive Services) Task Force will meet in person for the first time in eight months to once again take up prostate cancer and several other topics that were unable to be addressed due to its previous meeting’s cancellation. I no longer work for AHRQ and have had no involvement in planning this meeting. It is my sincere hope, however, that neither the USPSTF nor the federal government will be cowed by the prospect of triggering another political firestorm into soft-pedaling the scientific evidence that PSA testing does more harm than good.

If you need the back story, he provides that as well, either in the body text of his blog or in links.


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Charles Hodges MD

March 7, 2011 at 9:24 am

I am really concerned about having the feds decide anything about medicine that keeps us for looking for treatable disease. PSA as a screening tool is not perfect, but it has saved the lives of several younger men that I have tested over the years. My experience would be considered anecdotal, but for the 40 year old fellow with an elevated Psa who turned out to have Prostate cancer and is alive today, it is 100%. I did the test because of his symptoms and his family history.

Gary Schwitzer

March 7, 2011 at 11:22 am

Of course it could be argued that the example you cite is not – technically – a screening example.
Someone with symptoms and with a family history is in a higher risk category.
Screening – by definition – is looking for problems in otherwise seemingly healthy people with no signs of problems.
The semantics are important.