Health News Review

A physician wrote to me, concerned that she’s seen no news coverage questioning why Sam’s Club stores across the country are offering free PSA screenings for men 40 and over to “celebrate men’s health month.”  The events are apparently scheduled for this coming weekend, on June 14.

But not everyone is impressed by the promotion.  There’s a Facebook page that announces, “Sam’s Club Announces Plan to Harm Nation’s Men.”

The stores say they’re giving away $150 worth of screenings.  Not only the PSA blood tests but also blood pressures, BMI, cholesterol and glucose tests, etc.

A few questions for Sam’s Club:

  • What is the value of a test that even the American Urological Association “does not recommend in men between ages 40 to 54 years at average risk.”
  • Will men be told about the number of evidence-based organizations in this country that do not endorse mass screening for PSA in men starting at age 40?
  • What will be the extent of the informed consent done prior to taking men’s blood samples to do the PSA analysis?
  • Will men be told about the potential harms of prostate screening?  The American Urological Association – representing the doctors who specialize in the prostate – states that “Prostate cancer screening itself is associated with a number of potential harms, both psychological and physical.” And then the AUA guidelines go on to describe many of them – see the bold HARMS section in the guidelines.

Sam’s Club shoppers, we know you have a lot of decision-making on your mind as you travel down the aisles of cheap toilet paper, overstocked blue jeans and sweatshirts, gas grills, cameras, tires, TVs, frozen food and more.

But we suggest you make your upcoming shopping trip a bit more complicated by considering the bulleted questions above.

Or take a look at the infographic below, which the National Cancer Institute offers on its website.  Because I bet you won’t get this kind of data at Sam’s Club.

Then, once you consider the tradeoffs – the potential benefits and the potential harms – you can make whatever choice you wish.  But it should be an informed choice – not just something you do willy-nilly because a store is offering it for free.

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Comments

David Harvey posted on June 19, 2014 at 8:40 am

PSA screening is helpful if you’ve had prostate cancer and want to see if it came back.. My PSA continues to keep going down over a 3 year period.

    Gary Schwitzer posted on June 19, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    David,

    Technically, the use you describe is not screening.

    It’s post-diagnosis monitoring of a known condition.

    Screening is looking for problems in otherwise healthy people.