FAB/ CANCER – PROSTATE CANCER
PROSTATE CANCER SCREENING SUBJECTS MEN TO ‘SUBSTANTIAL HARMS,’ WARNS ONE OF ITS KEY ARCHITECTS
Presumably in response to the continued release of independent studies that warn about the uselessness of prostate cancer screenings, the American College of Physicians (ACP) has issued its own alert about the questionable practice. In a recent statement published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, ACP petitions doctors to be wary about recommending prostate cancer screenings to their patients, warning that they come with limited benefits and a slew of “substantial harms.”
As explained by ACP on its website, the group is strongly opposed to any men younger than 50 or older than 69 receiving prostate cancer screenings, period. And for men between the ages of 50 and 69, ACP strongly encourages a thorough discussion with one’s doctor before agreeing to a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, as misdiagnosis and resultant unnecessary treatments can cause more harm than good in the form of incontinence, impotence, and various other devastating side effects.
“Before PSA testing, doctors and patients should discuss the potential benefits and harms of screening and the patient’s individual risk of prostate cancer, general health, and preferences for testing and evaluation,” says David L. Bronson, M.D, F.A.C.P., and president of ACP. “Only men between the ages of 50 and 69 who express a clear preference for screening should have the PSA test. For most of these men, the harms will outweigh the benefits.”
Government agency determined back in 2012 that PSA tests are useless for men of all ages
Such a statement represents an about-face for ACP, which just so happens to be one of the original architects of the PSA test for prostate cancer. But it is a welcomed change, especially in light of the fact that the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) last year determined that PSA screenings are useless for all men, regardless of age. According to USPSTF researchers, the harms of PSA testing far outweigh any alleged benefits.
Major harms caused by PSA screening include false positives that result in unneeded treatment, including prostate biopsies that can lead to significant bleeding, infection, or worse. False positives can also lead to treatments with surgery or radiation, which can result in loss of sexual function, loss of control of urination, and even death. There is also the risk of falsely targeting benign tumors that are actually harmless, a major flaw of the PSA test.
“Many people have a blind faith in early detection of cancer and subsequent aggressive medical intervention whenever cancer is found,” wrote Dr. Otis W. Brawley, M.D., M.P.H., Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, in an accompanying commentary published alongside the USPSTF’s updated recommendations. “There is little appreciation of the harms that screening and medical interventions can cause.”