Ethics in Medicine

Prostate Cancer Test Under Attack

Kristen Sparrow • October 11, 2011

There is more evidence for the “over kill” of the PSA test. This NYTimes article lays it all out and it’s heartbreaking for those who might have had unnecessary surgery, but this decision by the United States Preventive Services Task Force to suspend recommendations for routine PSA testing may save other men from needless surgeries and side effects. I’ve covered this topic here and here. There was a long article in the magazine section of the New York Times over the weekend also. It made the blunt comment that it’s trading one death for another, trading time in early life for a few weeks at the end. They also made the point that this emphasis on PSA has taken the focus off the really invasive tumors and how to differentiate them.

“The panel says research shows that over all, the test does not save lives and leads to unnecessary surgery and radiation treatment for slow-growing cancers that would never have caused harm. As for faster-growing, invasive cancers, there’s no proof that P.S.A. tests and earlier treatment offer any overall benefit.

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