In today's screening-crazed world of "early detection or else," we were pleasantly surprised to read the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's recommendation to skip routine prostate cancer screening. That's right, they're actually discouraging PSA tests. Why? Well, a higher than normal PSA number can cause undue alarm, for one thing. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that agreeing to unnecessary surgery, chemo, and radiation after being diagnosed with a high PSA number is often unnecessary — because the person was never in danger from dying of prostate cancer in the first place. The head of the task force, Dr. Virginia Moyer, says, "We have been told for decades to be terrified of cancer and that the only hope is early detection and treatment. You don't need to detect all cancers." Overreaction is an unfortunate side-effect of more accurate screening methods these days. While it's good to know that something is amiss, as the task force has noted, sometimes a person needs to re-examine whether it's necessary to initiate a heavy-handed approach of immune-destroying therapies for a non-life-threatening cancer, as many prostate cancer cases are. To this end, the task force noted:
- 2 of every 1,000 men screened will have a heart attack or stroke from resulting cancer treatment
- 30 to 40 of every 1,000 men will experience treatment-caused impotence or incontinence
- 1 of every 3,000 men screened will die from complications of surgery
What would you do if you were told that you had a high PSA level? Comment below!