A new study found that in the wake of a national panel’s conclusion that prostate cancer screening test does men more harm than good has led to fewer American men electing to receive the test.
Primary care doctors also appear to have broadly accepted the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s ruling that the harms of prostate screening outweigh the benefits.
Both studies are scheduled for presentation on Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association in New Orleans.
The overall rate of PSA testing dropped about 50% at primary care clinics operated by Oregon Health and Science University after the task force recommended against such screening.
The test measures blood levels of a protein called prostate-specific antigen. Elevated PSA levels can be an indication of prostate cancer.
The urologists behind these studies fear that the task force’s recommendation will lead to more men dying of prostate cancer that could have been detected and treated.
The task force issued in May a final recommendation against using the PSA test to screen for prostate cancer.
The panel concluded that men with prostate cancer usually don’t die from their cancer. Surgery or radiation therapy to treat prostate cancer can lead to impotence or incontinence, significantly harming a man’s quality of life to cure a cancer that likely isn’t life-threatening.
The task force’s recommendation appears to have struck a nerve with primary care doctors who can make PSA screening a part of regular patient exams.
The decline was most pronounced in men aged 50 to 70 with PSA dropping from about 19% to 8%. However, no significant change in PSA testing occurred in men in their 40s or men older than 70.
The study also found that there was a lot of misunderstanding about the task force recommendation. A majority that the report also recommended against digital rectal exams for prostate cancer, as a result more than one third of doctors said they now perform fewer rectal exams.
Researchers believe that the recommendation goes further than PSA testing guidelines issued by the American Urological Association and the American Cancer Society. They note that the concern over PSA testing, but suggest that doctors and patients talk about the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening and proceed from there.