Panel says to stop routine PSA tests
Men should no longer receive a routine blood test to check for prostate cancer because the test does more harm than good, a top-level government...
The Washington Post
Men should no longer receive a routine blood test to check for prostate cancer because the test does more harm than good, a top-level government task force has concluded in a final recommendation that immediately became controversial.
The recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force runs counter to two decades of medical practice in which many primary-care physicians give the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test to healthy middle-age men.
But after reviewing available scientific evidence, the task force concluded that such testing will help save the life of just one in 1,000 men.
At the same time, the test steers many more men who would never die of prostate cancer toward unnecessary surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, the task force concluded.
For every man whose life is saved by PSA testing, another one will develop a dangerous blood clot, two will have heart attacks, and 40 will become impotent or incontinent because of unnecessary treatment, the task force said in a statement Monday.
Many middle-aged men regularly get the PSA test. But for years, some experts have questioned whether such screening really saves lives.
Monday's statement finalizes a draft recommendation made by the task force last fall.
While not a mandate, the group's statements have widespread impact, especially on private insurers and Medicare.
"It's a tough message," said Virginia Moyer, chair of the task force and professor of pediatrics at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "Nothing would have made us happier than to have found that routine PSA screening really works."
Moyer added that men who have urinary symptoms — such as pain or difficulty urinating — may still benefit from PSA testing.
Lori McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for WellPoint, said the company "considers continued screening for prostate cancer as medically necessary for men between the ages of 50 and 75" but will continue to review the evidence.
Tammy Arnold, a spokeswoman for Aetna, which currently considers PSA screening a medically necessary preventive service for men aged 40 and older, said officials there will review their policies in light of the recommendation.