Should men stop routine prostate testing?

7:05 PM, Jun 12, 2012   |    comments
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By Kay Quinn Healthbeat Reporter

St. Louis (KSDK) - Late last month, The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said doctors should stop doing routine blood screenings for prostate cancer in all men.

That announcement sparked a heated debate.

So what should men do with the information?

It's the subject of this week's 8 Ways to Prevent Cancer segment.

"It's very confusing and while on the one hand I can see what the task force, the data that the task force was looking at. On the other hand, I think we're throwing the baby out with the bathwater," said Dr. Gerald Andriole, a Siteman Cancer Center urologist.

The Preventive Services task Force based its recommendation on studies that show between zero and one prostate cancer death is avoided for every one thousand men screened. That's a good thing. But the task force also found more than one million men were needlessly cured over the past 20 years.

Needlessly, because their prostate cancer would never kill them if left alone.

"And I think our way out of this is not to have a wholesale policy where we either always screen or we never screen. We have to find the sweet spot in the middle," said Dr. Andriole.

Dr. Andriole believes screenings in the past were actually started too late, when a man was 55.

"A lot of the curable prostate cancers are developing in men in their 40s. So if anything I would like to encourage younger men to start thinking about their future risk of prostate cancer and talk to their doctors at an earlier age," said Dr. Andriole.

The bottom line, according to some urologists: each man should be considered individually when it comes to deciding about screening for prostate cancer.

"We know about age, we know about race, we know about family history and there are a variety of other things and when a patient and a doctor consider the individual factors it'll become pretty apparent who should be screened and who shouldn't," said Dr. Andriole.


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