Monday, June 26, 2017

Fed task force changes its mind — for a change

Whether to get PSA prostate cancer screenings can still be guesswork, N.Y. Times warns

Should men between the ages of 55 and 70 get prostate cancer screening?

Depends on whom you're listening to, and when, I guess — especially if it's the federal government making the suggestions.
Aaron E. Carroll

According to a story by Aaron E. Carroll  in The New York Times today, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force "changed its recommendation…from a D (that is, don't do it) to a C (discuss it with your doctor)."

Five years ago, the piece indicated, "the task force gave prostate cancer screening a D recommendation because there are real harms from over-diagnosis of the disease."

The story went on to say that "over-diagnosis leads to unnecessary treatments, and a newly discovered cancer could lead to no symptoms or harm over the patient's lifetime."

It also said that — while "there appeared to be little evidence that screening with with prostrate-specific antigen blood test (PSA) reduced prostate cancer mortality" — "about 75 percent of all the men treated will have impotence, incontinence or both."

A 2014 study that was the largest randomized controlled trial to that date showed, however, "that offering men screening reduced their relative risk of dying of prostate cancer over 13 years by 21 percent."

Those figures are applicable for men between the ages of 55 and 70; after that age, the harms seem to definitely outweigh the benefits.

Carroll is a professor at Indiana University School of Medicine who blogs on health research and policy.

To learn more about research regarding prostate cancer and other diseases, check out "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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