PSA screening still a valuable tool in detecting prostate cancer

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PSA screening

When the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (PSTF) recommended against prostate-specific antigen screening for prostate cancer in 2012, researchers began studying what effect this would have on diagnosing and treating prostate cancer in medical practices nationwide.

This week, JAMA Surgery online reported a significant decrease in prostate biopsies and prostate cancer surgeries after the USPSTF’s recommendation.

These findings come as no surprise to Jason Hafron, M.D., Beaumont urologist and surgeon. “The task force recommendation dramatically changed the landscape of diagnosing prostate cancer.”

During the 1990s, with the potential for cure with early detection, population-based screening programs were widely implemented in the United States.

Said Dr. Hafron, “It’s troubling. We’ve known for the past 30 years PSA screenings prevent prostate cancer deaths. With the use of PSAs reduced significantly, we may see more advanced and aggressive forms of cancer, with the unintended consequence of more men dying.”

According to the American Cancer Society, in 2015, prostate cancer accounted for the deaths of 27,540 American men.

Nearly 220,000 U.S. men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed nationally among men. The prostate is part of a man’s reproductive system.

Dr. Hafron insists PSAs remain a valuable tool in diagnosing prostate cancer in certain men, and patients and their physicians should continue to discuss the risks and benefits of PSA screening.

New technology, like the use of biomarkers, advanced MRI imaging and genetics are also beneficial in preventing and treating prostate cancer.

Men who might benefit from a PSA blood test:

  • are ages 55-69
  • have a family history of prostate cancer
  • are African-American
  • had an abnormal result from a prostate exam

“Urologists are now focusing on refining and identifying prostate cancer that is potentially lethal and should be treated. I agree we need to be a lot smarter and selective of who we are screening and when, but we should not stop using PSA altogether as recommended by the USPSTF,” said Dr. Hafron.

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News source: Beaumont Health.
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is credited to Beaumont Health.