Tuesday, June 05, 2012
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Yet again, there’s confusion over cancer screening guidelines set forth by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). If you remember, I spoke to Dr. Christina Giuliano, Director of Breast Imaging at the Maimonides Breast Cancer Center, a few months ago about the Task Force’s mammogram guidelines. The Task Force recommended that women delay routine mammograms because they believed the risks of screening for breast cancer outweighed the benefits. Well, now the Task Force is trying to tackle the screening guidelines for prostate cancer, citing similar reasons.
The current (and only) prostate cancer screening is a blood test that detects levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). PSA is a protein that may detect the presence of prostate tumors. The PSA is used in conjunction with a digital rectal examination of the prostate. The USPSTF argues that testing for PSA causes too much unnecessary harm and identifies tumors that will never become fatal. To curb the cost and potential risks associated with biopsies, the Task Force now recommends against routine prostate cancer screening for men of all ages.
I spoke to David A. Silver, Chief of Urologic Oncology, and asked him what these new guidelines mean for you and your family members. “While I understand the rationale for this new set of guidelines, it does a disservice to some at-risk groups,” he explains. Some doctors were offering the test indiscriminately, causing many male patients to be unnecessarily tested – which is the main concern of the Task Force. However, certain groups are more likely to develop prostate cancer and would benefit from screening.
While Dr. Silver acknowledges that there are associated risks with every biopsy, it is beneficial for certain men to be screened. “African American and Caribbean American men have a high incidence of prostate cancer,” states Dr. Silver. “It is very reasonable for these groups of men to receive the test, as well as men with a family history of prostate cancer.” So while these new guidelines are beneficial to many men, it’s important to speak with your physician. Review your family history and find out if you have any factors that put you at a greater risk for developing prostate cancer.