October 7, 2011

BUT FOLKS HAVE ALREADY BEEN TAUGHT TO THE TESTS:

Q&A: Why discourage routine prostate cancer PSA test? (Karen Kaplan and Shari Roan, 10/07/11, Los Angeles Times)

The test is not very good at separating men with prostate cancer from men without it. About two-thirds of men who have a PSA reading above 4 ng/mL do not have the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. Meanwhile, nearly one-third of men with PSA levels in the safe range have been found to harbor cancer cells in their prostates.

Autopsy studies have found prostate cancer in one-third of men between 40 and 60, and in 75% of men over 85; in most of those cases, the cancers are harmless.

"Many men with localized prostate cancer will never have problems," said Dr. Roger Chou of Oregon Health & Science University, part of a group that reviewed evidence for the panel. "That's a really hard concept for people, but it's been known for a long time."

The biggest knock on the test is that despite finding more cancers, it doesn't actually lead to a reduction in deaths -- the ultimate goal of any cancer screening program.

When a PSA test turns up prostate cancer in a man with no outward symptoms, that early warning could help him beat a tumor that otherwise would have killed him. But there are two other possibilities: Either the tumor is so aggressive that the patient dies anyway, or -- as is usually the case -- it is so slow-growing that it wouldn't have been fatal, even if left untreated.

The overwhelming majority of cancers fall into the last group, the task force wrote: Fully 95% of men whose prostate cancers are detected with PSA tests will be alive 12 years later even if they don't get treatment. And, the panel added, no study on prostate cancer screening has ever shown that screening reduces the number of deaths.

Posted by at October 7, 2011 8:58 PM
  

blog comments powered by Disqus
« IMPENDING MAJORITY LEADER McCONNELL SMILED: | Main | HOW CAN YOU GIVE A LIBERTY PRIZE TO A GUY WHO OPPOSED LIBERATING EASTERN EUROPE?: »