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"Against backdrop of uncertainty and controversy" ACS updates prostate screening guidelines

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The American Cancer Society has just released updated guidelines on prostate cancer screening.

Because of the uncertainties of benefits vs. harms of such screening, the ACS puts a new emphasis on shared decision-making and on the use of patient decision aids to help men.

Excerpts from ACS statements released today:

“As it has since 1997, the American Cancer Society advises against a general recommendation for men to undergo screening, instead saying testing should only occur when a man is provided the opportunity to learn about the limitations and potential benefits of screening and treatment.

…The guidelines now outline the uncertainties regarding the balance of benefits and harms associated with screening. They clearly state that every man should be told of the uncertainties, risks and potential benefits of screening, and that no man should be tested without receiving this information.”

On the problems with big community screening events:

“The American Cancer Society discourages participation in community-based prostate cancer screening programs unless those can adequately provide for an informed decision-making process and appropriate follow-up. For men who have limited or no access to other sources of care, community-based screening programs may provide the only opportunity to make an informed decision about testing. Men who are contemplating screening through these programs should first receive high-quality objective informed decision-making, either through interaction with trained personnel, or through the use of validated, high-quality decision aids, appropriate to the target population. Since virtually all men age 65 years and older have health insurance through Medicare, they should be discouraged from participating in community-based screening programs, and should be referred to a primary care provider.”

The Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making (disclosure: they support this project) posted a video clip with its president, Dr. Michael Barry, reinforcing the shared decision-making message.

For now, the Foundation’s shared decision-making program on prostate cancer screening can be seen online.
Check it out.

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Comments (2)

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rose hoban

March 4, 2010 at 12:07 pm

This story on ABC’s website does a pretty good job.
Granted, it’s written by someone from ACS, but it’s such a relief to see something on a mainstream website that’s not shrill or sensational. No discussion of cost in there, but he does make the point that men over 65 don’t need to get screened in a van in the supermarket parking lot – Medicare will pay.
Looks like the ACS actually has good PR people, who can message appropriately, unlike the USPSTF.