Friday, October 07, 2011

Government will recommend greatly scaling back prostate cancer screenings; disruptive treatment unnecessary for most men

Rob Stein writes in the Washington Post this morning that medical “authorities” (The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force  -- USPSTF) will recommend dropping most routine prostate cancer screening for men (through the PSA Antigen test [link]).  The results have consistently amounted to unnecessary tests and treatment, sometimes with real practical consequences, for a cancer that often grows so slowly that men will dies of something else (at the end of a natural life span).

Rob Stein has a Washington Post report front page on Friday morning Oct. 7, link here.  

The USPSTF is also called the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, website here  and the new press release should appear Tuesday. It’s recommendations affect what Medicare and private insurers pay for.

My own father died of suddenly metastasized prostate cancer just before age 83, in 1986, but was ill and incapacitated for only about four weeks.  My mother died of heart failure at age 97 at the end of 2010, but in 2009, a surgeon had insisted on doing a lumpectomy and wanted to operate further when it didn’t “get everything”.  At that age, we said “No”.  Her decline accelerated after the late 2009 surgery. 

Gardiner Harris reported considerable opposition to this new report in the New York Times on Saturday, link to the story here.  But prostate patients do not want potentially unnecessary "castration", chemical or actual, to prevent future cancer blowback.  Men are finding out what a more publicized problem for women can really feel like.

CNN says that the ratio of indolent prostate cancers to aggressive (like my father had) that would actually need to be removed with radical treatment to save a life, is 47:1.   CNN says that men should be aware of the statistics (which seem to favor "watch and wait" most of the time.)  I would think a biopsy could identify which type. But men may experience a "shame" factor.

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