Excellent PBS NewsHour segment on prostate cancer screening

The PBS NewsHour had a 6-minute segment last night – headlined on their website as “Patients, Doctors Face Tough Questions Amid Changes in Prostate Cancer Screening.”

One unusual feature of the segment: it profiled a man who went into septic shock after a prostate biopsy after an elevated PSA test – the kind of cascade of events that often gets very little news coverage. The segment was careful to say that such a complication is rare and that his example “may not be true for all patients and each needs to decide what to do about PSA testing for themselves.” But it also explained that the same man has now decided to forego future prostate cancer screening.

We often only hear about the benefits of screening and only hear from men who claim that it saved their lives.

This piece offered balance and context – something that we yearn for in any story about screening tests – and applaud when we (rarely) see it.

Watch Patients, Doctors Face Tough Questions Amid Changes in Prostate Cancer Screening on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Disclosure: the segment includes several interview clips with Dr. Michael Barry, president of the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making (FIMDM), which supports my web publishing efforts.

I think the important aspect that Barry brings to this segment – and that FIMDM brings to the public discussion – is that this is not a “one size fits all” issue and still requires fully informed and shared decision-making between patient and physician.

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October 21, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Usually it is women’s health issues such as mammograms and hormone replacement that are causing controversy. It was only a matter of time before some male issues became controversial as well. Just because we have advanced (but invasive) technologies for testing doesn’t mean we always have to use it in every circumstance.

Gregory D. Pawelski

October 24, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Sometimes, while a life may be saved, a life may be taken. It does happen, but no one emphasizes that point.