Monday, May 28, 2012

Health:  New Data on Harms of Prostate Cancer Screening

The recommendations, from the United States Preventive Services Task Force, offer the most detailed breakdown to date of the potential risks and benefits of the prostate specific antigen blood test, commonly known as the P.S.A. test. Most important, the task force found that, at best, one man in every 1,000 given the P.S.A. test may avoid death as a result of the screening, while another man for every 3,000 tested will die prematurely as a result of complications from prostate cancer treatment and dozens more will be seriously harmed.
Prostate biopsies can cause pain, infection and emotional distress, while a cancer diagnosis typically leads to surgery or radiation treatment that can render a man impotent or incontinent, or both. In rare cases, a man can die from complications of treatment. Although "watchful waiting" is an option for men with prostate cancer, the vast majority of patients who learn they have prostate cancer choose more aggressive treatment.
The task force found that up to 43 men per 1,000 tested will face serious harms. Thirty to 40 men will develop incontinence or erectile dysfunction, or both, as a result of treatment. Two more men will have a serious cardiovascular event, like a heart attack, due to treatment, and one man will develop a life-threatening blood clot in his legs or lungs.
Even so, the American Urological Association issued a statement saying the group was "outraged" by the task force decision to finalize the recommendations. The group said the findings did not adequately reflect the benefits of P.S.A. testing and that it was "inappropriate and irresponsible" to issue a blanket statement against the testing.

For more, see New Data on Harms of Prostate Cancer Screening by Tara Parker-Pope, May 21, 2012 at NYTimes.com.

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