Health News Review

A paper published today in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute brings new focus to the questions already raised about prostate cancer screening.

Headlines:

Prostate Cancer Screening Shows No Benefit – New York Times

“Updated findings from one of the largest studies of prostate cancer screening show that the commonly used P.S.A. blood test did not save lives, although questions remain about whether younger men or those at very high risk for the disease might benefit.”

PSA test for prostate cancer doesn’t save lives, study finds – USA Today

“It doesn’t seem as if the PSA has any impact on mortality or death,” says Thomas Kirk, president of Us TOO, a patient advocacy group not involved in the new study, which included 76,685 men ages 55 to 74. “It would be nice if we could say that a PSA screening could save your life, but we can’t say that.”

Study: Routine prostate cancer testing does not save lives  – The Washington Post

“There is tendency to believe that if a test finds disease, that must be a good thing,” said Otis Brawley, a cancer screening expert and chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. But that isn’t necessarily so, he said, adding, “I’m very worried about ‘auditorium medicine,’ where a long line of guys waits to get screened and there is no discussion or education about the potential risks and benefits.”

PSA screening doesn’t prevent cancer deaths: study – Reuters Health

Comparing men who were screened each year with so-called PSA tests, for prostate specific antigen, or rectal exams to those who received their usual care, researchers found that more men in the screening group had been diagnosed with prostate cancer after 13 years — but there was no difference in how many had died from it.

Comments

Kathleen posted on March 1, 2012 at 3:19 pm

My husband asked for PSA monitoring due to prostate cancer in his family history at age 52. He was turned down-doctor said he didn’t need it now. At 58 his back hurt and he went to the doctor who did an x-ray of his back to see if an old injury was the problem. The radiologist alerted the doctor to problems with his bones. Then the PSA test was done–it was 164. Early monitoring would have saved him much pain and suffering. He may have been able to get treatment that would have let him live a longer and more comfortable life. He is currently on Hospice and very weak. His oncologist said 6 months probably less in October 2011. We urge our sons to get tested at 40 and live a healthy lifestyle so they can avoid the pain and suffering their father must endure due to the reluctance of doctors to do testing.

    Gary Schwitzer posted on March 1, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Kathleen,

    Thanks for your note. It covers a perspective that other readers should consider.

    But we should also emphasize that the study in question involved screening – which means looking for problems in people for whom you have no suspicion of any problem. It’s like going into a football stadium filled with people you don’t know much about but whom you assume to be in good health – and screening them. Your husband – because of the family history you allude to – was already at higher risk so we shouldn’t think of that as a screening test. You appropriately referred to his situation as “PSA monitoring” and as “testing.” That’s different than the screening issue involved in the study described in the article above.