Understanding new prostate cancer screening advice

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Understanding new prostate cancer screening advice

That is why the US Preventive Services Task Force issued a new draft prostate cancer screening recommendation Tuesday.

"We are pleased that the USPSTF has again improved its recommendation for prostate cancer screening", said Dr. E. David Crawford, Head of the Urologic Oncology Department at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and Founder/Chairman of the PCEC, "this supports the life-saving work we have been doing for almost three decades".

The panels says its latest recommendation is based on new evidence indicating that routine PSA blood tests can slightly reduce some men's chances of dying from prostate cancer. "And having the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force discourage PSA screening has sort of created a whole generation of family practitioners and internists who feel that PSA screening is a bad thing to do for patients". The USPSTF first discouraged PSA testing because of those risks.

The U.S. National Cancer Institute provides more information on prostate cancer screening.

Prostate cancer can raise levels of PSA, a protein produced by the prostate gland - but this doesn't happen in all cases.

The new suggestions do not single out men who have an increased risk of prostate cancer, such as African-American men, who are roughly twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as the general population. A normal PSA level is typically 4 or less, but there is no specific normal or abnormal level.

Catching cancer early is essential to treating unsafe and aggressive forms of the disease, which can be a benefit from the test.

"Some men who are very concerned about prostate cancer will elect to be screened, and others who are less concerned will elect not to be screened; either decision should be supported", he wrote.

The revised draft recommendation is open to public comment before a final recommendation is issued.

Two years later, a survey of more than 111,000 men found little change -- only 30 percent reported discussing both the pros and cons of PSA testing.

Prostate cancer screening is notoriously rife with uncertainty, and the previous 2012 guidelines advised against PSA testing.

"We've been jumping up and down about this for years and years", Dr. Benjamin Davies, an associate professor of urology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told CNBC.

They recommend "informed, individualized decision-making based on a man's values and preferences" for men between the ages of 55 and 69. There's also newer evidence that "active surveillance", which involves repeated PSA testing and close monitoring, can help men diagnosed with cancer avoid harsh treatment or at least delay it.

Committed to encouraging men to take a more proactive role in protecting their health, PCEC has coordinated hundreds of sites across the country to offer free or low cost prostate health assessments during Prostate Cancer Awareness Week and year round.

The stance marks a reversal from the panel's recommendation in 2012, when it concluded that the adverse effects of the blood test outweighed its benefits.

"Many men will have a high PSA at some point in their lives, and most of those will not be prostate cancer but that will be something that the patient and doctor will be anxious about" and will evaluate, Krist told ABC News.

"The balance has shifted", she added, "and now we can recommend that men have a conversation with their doctors about screening".

The draft recommendation applies to adult men who have not been previously diagnosed with prostate cancer and have no signs or symptoms of the disease. The only real difference is that the task force and AUA suggest that the discussions begin at age 45, whereas the ACS recommends starting the discussion process at age 50. "It is important that men, particularly African-American men, get a complete check-up, including the PSA".

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