SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – An influential government task force has issued a controversial new recommendation on cancer screening using the prostate specific antigen, or PSA test.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force will issue new guidelines on October 11th, that healthy men 50 and older should not get their PSA checked every year, saying the widely used blood test that measures PSA levels actually does more harm than good.
“PSA is not very accurate in terms of its ability to differentiate men who have cancer from men who don’t have cancer,” said Dr. Michael LeFevre, Vice Chair of the panel.
The task force report detailed that routine PSA screening in patients with no symptoms can lead to biopsies, surgery and radiation that may not be needed. That can cause impotence, incontinence, infections, even death.
But top prostate cancer specialist Dr. Peter Carroll of UCSF in an interview with Dr. Kim Mulvihill of CBS 5 News said these new guidelines are too extreme.
“I think it would be a terrible mistake,” said Dr. Carroll of enacting the guidlines.
Dr. Carroll explained how, when used properly, the PSA blood test can help save lives. He said the test should be used selectively based on an individual’s risk factors including age, family history, ethnicity, and physical examination
“That will give a man a much better idea of their individual risk and more importantly their risk of high risk disease,” said Dr. Carroll.
Dr. Carroll said not all prostate cancers that are detected need to be treated, and noted that doctors who test men with a PSA need to advise these men that they could be detecting prostate cancer that may not need treatment. Some men may simply be candidates for active surveillance.
“Our goal is not to detect and treat every cancer. Our goal is to detect and detect only those cancers which will represent a risk to that man over his lifetime,” said Dr. Carroll.
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