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Task Force Rethinks PSA Blood Test For Prostate Cancer

(Credit: KDKA)

(Credit: KDKA)

(Source: KDKA-TV) Dr. Maria Simbra
Dr. Maria Simbra is an Emmy award-winning medical journalist, who...
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CBS Pittsburgh (con't)

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Lots of men are familiar with getting a PSA blood test to screen for prostate cancer.

In a draft statement, a government task force that looks at preventive tests has recommended against PSA, or prostate specific antigen, for screening.

“I think it’s always good for us to re-evaluate our evidence,” Dr. Nancy Davidson of the UPMC Cancer Center said. “They’ve been put out for the community at large to review and to comment on.”

Before, its advice was for men over 75 not to get the test. Now the task force says it’s not for screening men without symptoms at any age.

“There’s a debate in medicine right now is, ‘What are we accomplishing with all the treatment for prostate cancer?’” Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, a urologist at Allegheny General Hospital, said.

The task force looked at the previous research on PSA. Turns out, the test does not necessarily save lives.

“In medicine, we very much want to be evidence-based. So we want to take advantage of all the great science, all the great clinical research that we’ve done,” Dr. Davidson said.

Two out of five positive blood tests pick up tumors too slow-growing to ever be a threat and sometimes the test leads to procedures complicated by erectile dysfunction, incontinence, infections and even death.

“It needs to fit into the person’s overall world view that if the most important thing in their life is sexual relations – don’t do anything,” Dr. Cohen said. “Most guys don’t tell me that and most guys’ wives don’t tell me that either.”

For now, he’s not advising any changes for his patients while the debate is ongoing.

“And it’s a debate that goes on, it’s very healthy, looks at both sides of the question. Are we doing the right things? Are we not doing the right things?” he said.

“Our goal as you know is to think about how to best personalize cancer screening, cancer diagnosis and cancer care, and this is another chance for us to think about that,” Dr. Davidson pointed out.

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