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Some men should consider prostate cancer screening, Task Force believes

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is now recommending that men aged 55 to 69 should talk with their doctors about prostate-specific antigen screening.

Prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among American men.

Yet ever since the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1986, there has been debate in the health care community about the efficacy of the test.

In 2012, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force — an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine — concluded that there was “moderate certainty” the benefits of the screening did not outweigh the potential harms. The biggest risks included a false positive that leads to a biopsy that could cause infection, pain and bleeding, as well as surgery and radiation that can provoke impotence or problems with the bladder or bowels.

But the task force is now recommending that men aged 55 to 69 talk to their physicians about whether to get the test. New evidence indicates screening in this age group can reduce the risk of metastatic cancer and the chance of dying from prostate cancer.

In a story for Stanford Health Policy, Douglas Owens, MD, director of Stanford's Center for Health Policy and the Center for Primary Care Outcomes and Research, said there is also new information on active surveillance — a way of monitoring prostate cancer that may allow some men with low-risk prostate cancers to delay or, in some cases, avoid treatment with radiation or surgery.

“We hope our new recommendation will encourage discussions that provide men age 55 to 69 the information they need to make a decision about prostate cancer screening that is right for them,” Owens, who is the co-chair of the task force, told me.

A longer version of this piece was published by Stanford Health Policy. 

Photo by Getty Images

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