MASSDEVICE ON CALL — The prostate cancer screening debate rages on as a new study published in the journal Lancet vindicates the life-saving potential of testing but cautions against introducing routine screening programs.
In a 13-year study of men undergoing prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening, the tests appeared to help reduce prostate cancer deaths by 21% when compared to groups of patients who went untested. Researchers cautioned, however, that it’s too soon to say for certain that the life-saving benefits of testing outweigh the risks of over-diagnosis and over-treatment, which can leave men with common side-effects such as incontinence and impotence.
"The time for population-based screening has not arrived," lead researcher Professor Fritz Schröder from Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands said in prepared remarks. "Further research is urgently needed on ways to reduce over-diagnosis preferably by avoiding unnecessary biopsy procedures, and reducing the very large number of men who must be screened, biopsied, and treated to help only a few patients."
Clinicians and healthcare regulators have been arguing for years over the dangers of skipped tests and the risks of over-diagnosis. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force’s 2012 recommendation that physicians set aside PSA testing had urologists up in arms. The Large Urology Group Practice Assn. expressed "outrage" at the USPSTF’s recommendation, warning that "failing to detect cancer early will create a public health catastrophe in 5-10 years."
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