Cancer, Men's Health , ,

Decline in Prostate Screening and Cancer

The availability of cancer screening is a great thing, under the right circumstances, but there is a danger to over-screening. While screening tests are useful tools, they are not always necessary to improve someone’s quality of life and sometimes lead to misdiagnosis. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force tries to aid the screening process by creating recommendations based on peer-reviewed research. As medical knowledge continues to grow and tests improve, these recommendations are subject to change over time.

In 2012, the USPSTF recommended against screening for prostate cancer for men 75 years old and older. Considering the slow pace at which most prostate cancers progress, the implications of a positive screen for prostate cancer can be worse than living with the disease, unaffected. With a positive test, comes a biopsy, which may lead to surgery, radiation, or hormone therapy, all of which come with their own set of challenges and complications – not to mention all of the psychological consequences that come with a positive cancer screening.

Two recent studies show that the American public and healthcare providers actually listened to the USPSTF guidelines, showing a significant decline in screening and prostate cancer diagnoses. 33,519 fewer men per year (since 2012) were diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Not everyone is on board with this new recommendation, however. Some fear that the drastic decline in screening may lead to more prostate cancer- related deaths. For more information about this debate, please see NPR’s report.

  • whchapma

    Screening for prostate cancer is done with the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test. Unfortunately, 'Specific' is something of a misnomer, and the test can be quite inaccurate – PSA levels can be elevated by several other conditions, including benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). These conditions are common in older men, particularly those over 75, and generally don't require treatment. Prostate cancer, on the other hand, is treated with invasive surgery and radiation therapy, both of which come with a lot of unwanted side effects. Regular screening with the PSA was leading to a significant amount of unnecessary treatment, which is why it is a relief to see these guidelines finally changing.