Talk to your doctor, patients are advised. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has loosened its guidance on whether men should take the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The test diagnoses prostate cancer, but there are so many problems with it (anybody up for a false-positive?) that the USPSTF in 2012 recommended that doctors discourage men of all ages from getting the test.
The task force just updated those recommendations, excluding men 55 to 69 from that blanket denial, saying that “informed, individualized decision making based on a man’s values and preferences” is the best way to go. Public comment on the updated recommendation will be taken up until May 8.
The American Cancer Society agrees with the task force’s recommendations and even the American Urological Association, which vehemently opposed the 2012 recommendation, says that PSA testing shouldn’t be done for men younger than 54 or older than 70. The task force says that of any 1,000 men offered the PSA test, that effort will possibly save one man from dying from prostate cancer.
One of the problems is that prostate cancer might take years to develop into a problem that must be dealt with medically, while the negative effects of overtesting are felt immediately, says task force member Alex H. Krist, MD. Those effects include the aforementioned false-positives, which lead to yet more testing and years of additional close follow-up, including repeated blood tests and biopsies. The task force argues that “many more men are expected to experience the harms of screening and treatment than will experience benefit.”