Is America Falling Behind in Prostate Cancer Screening?

New recommendations from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force coming out against using certain prostate cancer screening tests may be causing a backslide in early diagnosis, researchers are finding. The full implications of the backslide are not yet fully understood, but they have some doctors concerned that failure to diagnose may lead to an increased risk of death when this disease presents.

The new recommendations suggest avoiding the use of the standard prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test in routine screening. This recommendation was made to prevent men from undergoing unnecessary, invasive procedures should false positives result. Since the PSA does have some issues with false positives, the screening was changed to simply involve the use of digital rectal exams in most cases.

Since that recommendation change came down a few years ago, researchers have noted a dramatic drop in the number of prostate cancer cases being reported. Overall, there was a 28 percent decrease in the detection of prostate cancer within a single year of the new recommendation. The full implications remain unclear.

What researchers also do not understand is what exactly is transpiring in doctors’ offices between physicians and their male patients. Questions remain on whether men are undergoing other screening procedures and if they are being fully evaluated for risks.

Prostate cancer strikes an estimated 220,000 American men each year. Nearly 30,000 men die from the disease, which if caught early, is often treatable. With those facts in mind, the recommendation is for men – and their doctors – to carefully weigh personal prostate cancer risks and undergo screening if risks are moderate to high. All men, however, should begin undergoing basic screening by about the age of 50.

Men who are concerned about prostate cancer are urged to discuss the topic with their healthcare providers. Risk for this disease tends to rise starting about the age of 40 with most cases diagnosed around the age of 65.

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