prostate cancer screening

The USPTF, the US Preventative Task Force has released their latest guidelines with respect to prostate cancer, that frequently slow growing but most common of cancers in men. My colleague, Dr. Wells wrote an extensive piece on the tentative guidelines last year at about this time. Let me summarize briefly. Screening using a blood test, the prostate specific antigen or PSA is beset with some problems. An elevation in the value often results in prostate biopsy which is considered “minimally invasive” if you consider having a sharp object repeatedly placed in your rectum to obtain tissue samples. And often these biopsies are negative, the rise in PSA is a false positive. This adds cost to...

Last year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) finalized a controversial recommendation that general breast cancer screening should begin at age 50, not before then. The decision was controversial not just because of its implications for health insurance coverage but because society has been conditioned to believe that screening is a valuable part of preventive medicine. Unfortunately, that's not necessarily true.

The reason is due to false positives. If an initial screen produces a positive result, a doctor is likely to recommend a more invasive test. Not only does this cost the patient in terms of psychological distress and money, it also poses new...

In a recent article, actor Ben Stiller chronicled how early diagnosis of prostate cancer - by a routine Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test - saved his life; as such, he urged all men over 40 to discuss the PSA test with their doctors.  There is no doubt that the testimony of a high-profile individual such as Mr. Stiller will cause many men to consider getting a PSA test yet we at the American Council on Science and Health and many others have been critical of it, so it is fitting that we review where science stands on the issue.

The PSA is a blood test that measures...