U.S panel: Healthy men don't need PSA screenings
PHILADELPHIA, PA.; May 21, 2012 (WPVI) -- A government health task force now says men should skip the blood test that screens for prostate cancer.
We first learned the U.S Preventive Services Task force might make these recommendations in October. Now they have made it official.
Healthy men shouldn't get routine prostate cancer screenings, no matter how old they are, says updated advice from a government panel that found the PSA blood tests do more harm than good.
Despite strenuous protests from urologists, the Task Force is sticking by a contentious proposal it made last fall. A final guideline published Monday says there's little if any evidence that PSA testing saves lives - while too many men suffer impotence, incontinence, heart attacks, occasionally even death from treatment of tiny tumors that never would have killed them.
But Dr. Eric Horwitz of Fox Chase Cancer Center says medicine is not always black and white.
"You can't just make these blanket statements," Dr. Horwitz told Action News.
He says while some men may not need a PSA, others do.
"There's many men who do and have benefitted from having their PSA's checked and cancers have been discovered earlier," he says.
The guideline isn't a mandate. The task force stresses that men who want a PSA test still can get one, but only after the doctor explains the uncertainties.
That's in part because the panel found PSA testing hasn't been studied adequately in black men and those with prostate cancer in the family, who are at highest risk of the disease.
This is the same group that once sparked controversy by saying women in their forties should not get mammograms.
The Obama administration said Monday that Medicare will continue to pay for PSA screenings, a simple blood test. Other insurers tend to follow Medicare's lead.
Dr. Leonard Gomella at Jefferson University Hospital told us last October, the problem isn't always over-diagnosing, it can be over-treating.
Some cancers grow slowly, and should just be closely watched. He says many doctors are becoming more proactive and not treating every man with prostate cancer.
"Only treating the men where we find life-threatening or high-grade prostate cancer," Dr. Gomella says.
The bottom line is: don't make a quick decision based on these recommendations.
"You need to speak with your doctor and need to do what's best for you," Dr. Gomella says.
Men shouldn't use this as an excuse to skip checkups with the doctor, especially if they are African-American or have a family history of prostate cancer.
Sign Up For The 2012 Gary Papa Run To Fight Prostate Cancer
30-thousand men die from prostate cancer every year, so the need to raise awareness and money for research continues.
You can help do that this Father's Day, June 17th at the 10th annual Gary Papa Run at the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
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