Addressing the prostate cancer screening controversy
By Richard Augspurger, Medical Director, The Urology Center of Colorado, East Denver LIVING WELL Magazine
More than 3,000 men in Colorado will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012. For many in our state, prostate cancer has impacted the life of a father, brother, husband or friend.
In May, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released its final recommendation against routine use of the Prostate Specific Antigen blood test to diagnose prostate cancer. The government panel gave PSA screening a D rating––don’t recommend––for healthy men. This recommendation was given despite significant opposition from urologists, oncologists, patients and advocacy groups across the country.
There are often no early signs or symptoms of prostate cancer. By the time those symptoms manifest, the cancer has often metastasized and treatment options are limited. Not all prostate cancer diagnoses are life threatening. Not all prostate cancer diagnoses require treatment. But, the PSA test remains the best option available to help men assess their risk for prostate cancer and then determine the appropriate treatment with their physician.
The largest study on prostate cancer screening, the European Randomized Study for the Screening of Prostate Cancer, published its updated findings in the March 2012 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. This study demonstrated a 21% survival advantage to PSA screening for all patients and for those with the longest follow-up (over 10 years) this increased to 38%. This is consistent with experience in the U.S., where death rates from prostate cancer have declined by nearly 40% over the last two decades. It is clear that through screening, we are detecting prostate cancer at earlier stages and saving more lives. Unfortunately, it appears that these data weren’t considered by the USPSTF when making its recent recommendation.
When the USPSTF came out with a recommendation against regular mammograms for women under 50 in 2009, millions of women across the country immediately mobilized to express their outrage. Within weeks, the USPSTF apologized for the way the recommendation was presented and backed off the original comments. It’s time for American men to do the same thing. The issue is choice. Discounting prostate cancer screening entirely will undo the significant progress we’ve made in diagnosing and treating this potentially devastating disease. Get screened. Know your options.
Learn more about prostate cancer screening and potential treatment options at tucc.com.