BY TIM LOUIS MACALUSO
Many men 50 and older are bobbing and weaving their way through the PSA debate that started a couple of years ago. The prostate-specific antigen test is widely used to screen men for prostate cancer, but a number of studies have raised questions about the value of the PSA test. And last year, the US Preventive Services Task Force spoke out against PSA screening for all men, sending shockwaves through the medical community.
It also confused the heck out of many men, especially prostate cancer patients, since early detection has become the front line of defense against most cancers.
But early detection, some researchers argue, has led to over-treatment of prostate cancer. And many men may be having unnecessary surgery to remove their prostate. The surgery, now performed robotically, is frequently to blame for some serious problems: bladder incontinence and erectile dysfunction due to nerve damage.
But a University of Rochester Medical Center study recently published in the journal Cancer says the PSA test may be preventing up to 17,000 deaths in men a year. Early detection of the cancer before it has spread outside of the prostate gland is critically important to survival. If the PSA test is not given, the URMC study says we can expect to see a jump in the number of men who have advanced prostate cancer by the time they’re diagnosed.
The URMC’s Dr. Edward Messing, the co-author of the study and chair of urology, says that once prostate cancer has spread, it is difficult to treat. And men with metastasis at diagnosis will likely die from the disease.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men in the US. According to the URMC, more than 240,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2012, and about 28,000 men will die from the disease.
The URMC study is one of many that have recently weighed in on the value of the PSA for prostate cancer screening. And more are likely to come, which leaves many men wondering what to do.
My doctor strongly supports using the PSA. What is your doctor telling you?