U.S. Health Officials Agree, PSA tests do more harm than good

U.S. Health Officials Agree, PSA tests do more harm than goodAfter a long period of deliberation, a well-respected U.S. government advisory panel has announced that it no longer recommends men be screened for prostate cancer by the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.

According to HealthDay, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, comprised of medical experts who seek to offer guidance in prevention and evidenced-based medicine, said the system often results in overdiagnosis of prostate cancer that leads to unnecessary treatment options, which can result in impotence and incontinence. The decision comes seven months after the group first gave the treatment a low value rating of a “D,” at a time when guidelines stated most men over the age of 50 should receive the test.

“Some may say that by rating the test a ‘D’ we’re taking away the possibility of an informed decision, but we don’t want that to be the case,” said task force co-vice chair Dr. Michael LeFevre. “This decision does not preclude a man choosing to be screened.”

The tests, which measure prostate-specific antigen, can identify malignant tumors, however they do not have the ability to discern which of those cases will result in a life-threatening situation and those that can be cured with surgery, radiation or hormone therapy. While the treatment helps one man in every 1,000 avoid death by the disease, between 10 and 70 men who receive treatment for it are left with lifelong effects, such as incontinence, erectile dysfunction and bowel dysfunction.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 241,740 new cases of prostate cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2012, resulting in about 28,170 deaths. On average, one man in every six will be diagnosed with the disease during his lifetime.