Prostate cancer screening guidelines are changing, but are men and their doctors getting the message?

Just ask any woman and she’ll tell you: Men don’t listen.

Or, just check a recent Wall St. Journal poll.

The online poll asked readers this question… “Should men get PSA tests to screen for prostate cancer?”

Results: 640 said “Yes,” while 392 said, “No.”

This shows that SOME men listen. At least 392, anyway.

But that large majority of 640 is troubling. They haven’t been listening. And they really need to understand that the PSA era is over.

More importantly, it’s VITAL that all their doctors get this message.

Looking for lifesavers

Four years ago, the US Preventive Services Task Force issued a recommendation for older men. The task force said men over the age of 75 should not receive PSA screening.

Earlier this year, a USPSTF panel updated that recommendation.

The new guideline: No PSA for any man of any age.

This isn’t news to any doctor who’s paying attention. I first told you about serious PSA reservations nearly a decade ago.

The task force offered three stark details in support of the panel’s recommendation…

  • About one man in 1,000, diagnosed by PSA, will avoid prostate cancer death
  • Unnecessary follow up tests and treatments harm many men
  • Some follow up tests and treatments can cause fatalities

Simple, right? The benefit/risk ratio balances to the risk side. It’s unacceptable. But no matter how convincing the numbers may be, some health professionals still cling to the test.

The American Urological Association recommends PSA screening, beginning at age 40. The American Cancer Society suggests age 50, and a few years earlier for men at high risk. Those recommendations aren’t likely to change until the screening itself changes.

Fortunately, change is in the works.

Recently, the FDA approved two new prostate cancer screening methods. One test is called Pro-PSA. It measures three different PSA levels. Another test, known as PCA3, detects a gene that’s commonly present in prostate cancer patients.

Early trials of these tests are encouraging. But remember… PSA was the accepted standard for many years. Now it’s all but scrapped. So it may be years before we know for sure if either of these contenders is the real thing.

“Vote: Should men get PSA tests to screen for prostate cancer?” Wall St. Journal, 9/10/12,

“Screening for Prostate Cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement” Annals of Internal Medicine, Published online ahead of print 5/21/12,

“Task force discourages use of prostate cancer screening test” Angela Townsend, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/21/12,

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