Doctors Debate Changes To Prostate Cancer Screenings

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– A drastic change is recommended for prostate cancer screening. It’s a controversial announcement that could affect millions of men.

The same group that came out and said mammograms may not be necessary is now questioning a test used to diagnose prostate cancer. And at least one local doctor says, this is ridiculous.

Jessica Kartalija speaks to doctors about the debate.

Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA, is a simple blood test that measures a protein made by prostate cells. Now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is giving the PSA test a “D” grade, meaning the harm outweighs the benefit.

“The problem with this PSA is some groups are saying it is not a highly accurate test– there can be false positives, leading to unnecessary biopsies, surgery and radiation with significant consequences like incontinence and impotence,” Dr. Jennifer Ashton said.

The study says false negatives can also fail to diagnose prostate cancer.

About 225,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in the United States. Of those, 28,000 will die from the disease. At Chesapeake Urology, Dr. Sanford Siegel says PSA tests are critical.

“It sends the wrong message to people,” Siegel said. “Men’s lives have been saved because of PSA. PSA came to full use in the 1990s and since then, the number of men dying of prostate cancer has decreased significantly.”

Milton Roeth says routine PSA screenings saved his life.

“In my case, because of an enlargement of the prostate, through the years it was being watched and caught it at an early situation,” he explained. “Now I’m under radiation therapy here.”

The study also says often the detected cancer is so small and slow-growing, they never pose a risk to the patient.

Siegel isn’t convinced.

“If you take that away, I truly believe that you will see death rates go up significantly, and men will be dying from prostate cancer,” he said. “And dying from prostate cancer is not a good way to die.”

Men over the age of 40 who have a family history of prostate cancer are urged to get screenings every year.

Doctors who oppose the study’s findings say mortality rates associated with prostate cancer are down, and attribute that to early detection with PSA tests.

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