Posts Tagged ‘screening’

Prostate Cancer-Watch, Wait, and Not Whither

January 24, 2014

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and the second most common cause of death in men after lung cancer.  The diagnosis is made with a PSA blood test and a digital rectal exam and if either of these are abnormal, the man is subjected to a prostate biopsy.  Then comes the big decision: does the man proceed to treatment and face the risk of urinary incontinence and\or erectile dysfunction\impotence?

In the past few years there has been a trend towards active surveillance or after receiving the diagnosis of prostate cancer, the man accepts close monitoring with repeated blood tests and possibly repeat prostate biopsies to make certain that the cancer is not progressing or escaping from the prostate and spreading to other organs or structures. 

First a comment on screening.  Men between the ages of 55 and 69 are those most likely to benefit from screening with a PSA blood test and a digital rectal examination.  A man should only be screened after a discussion with his\her physician about the benefits and harms of screening.  A new trend is not to treat every man diagnosed with prostate cancer or active surveillance.   Not every man qualifies for active surveillance. 

Men with a very low risk of cancer progression have a low-grade cancer of the prostate.  Prostate cancers are graded from 1-10 and those with a score of 6 or less may be candidates for active surveillance.  Men are in the very low risk group if only a few of the biopsies are positive for cancer and that the cancer is not felt on the digital rectal exam. 

Men who were on the active surveillance program at John Hopkins School of Medicine had a 2.8% would die of their prostate cancer compared to 1.6% of men who had a very low risk of cancer progression who had surgical removal of their prostate glands.  The researches at John Hopkins found that the average increase in life expectancy after surgical removal of the prostate gland was only 1.8 months and that the men on active surveillance would remain free of treatment for an additional 6.4 years as compared to men who had immediate treatment with surgery on their prostate glands. 

Bottom Line: Men need to have a discussion with their physicians about the benefits and risks of prostate cancer screening.  Men with a life expectancy in excess of 20 years or younger men who have low risk disease may accept the risks of treatment rather than take the chance their cancer will cause harm later.  Men with very low risk disease can take comfort that their disease can safely be managed by active surveillance. 

 

PSA Screening For Prostate Cancer-New Guidelines

October 26, 2011

By now, you’ve probably heard that prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening is no longer recommended for healthy men under age 75. This controversial draft recommendation was issued by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Given previous recommendations from the medical community encouraging PSA screening, many men are confused. Following are answers to some questions you may have about this recommendation — and our advice on whether you should follow it.
Should You Have a PSA Screening Test? Here’s what Johns Hopkins recommends for patients:
By now, you’ve probably heard that prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening is no longer recommended for healthy men under age 75. This controversial draft recommendation was issued by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Given previous recommendations from the medical community encouraging PSA screening, many men are confused. Following are answers to some questions you may have about this recommendation — and our advice on whether you should follow it.
What is the USPSTF? The USPSTF is an independent group of 16 medical experts whose recommendations serve as guidelines for doctors throughout the country. In addition, the group’s recommendations ultimately impact what tests Medicare and private insurers will pay for.
Why did they make this recommendation? According to the USPSTF, the potential harms caused by prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening of healthy men as a means of identifying prostate cancer far outweigh its potential to save lives. The group discourages the use of any screening test for which the benefits do not outweigh the harms to the target population.
What are the potential harms of PSA screening? An elevated PSA reading can lead to an unnecessary prostate biopsy. Although biopsies often reveal signs of cancer, depending on a man’s age, 30 to 50 percent will not be harmful — even if left untreated.
After a positive biopsy comes the decision about what to do. Most men choose radical prostatectomy, external-beam radiation therapy or brachytherapy. But each of these treatments has the potential to cause serious problems like erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence or bowel damage. And men who choose active surveillance must live with the uncertainty of knowing that they have an untreated cancer that could start to progress at any time.
Why does the Task Force believe PSA screening does not save lives? The USPSTF evaluated data from five large randomized clinical trials of PSA testing, including the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer (PLCO) Trial, which reported no mortality benefit among 77,000 men who underwent PSA testing and were followed for 10 years.
Do these recommendations apply to all men? These recommendations apply to all men regardless of age, race or family history as long as they do not have symptoms of prostate cancer.
My advice. Many leading cancer and patient groups and doctors agree that there is harm with PSA screening and the treatment that follows diagnosis. But a more targeted screening approach focusing on those at greatest risk of developing prostate cancer, and active surveillance for those who don’t need immediate treatment, could shift the balance of benefit and harm toward benefit.
PSA screening is the best test available for the detection of cancer cells in the prostate. Rather than discontinuing use of the only test available to detect the disease early and treat it successfully, efforts should focus on reducing harm.
Bottom Line: Every man should discuss the benefits and risks of PSA screening with his physician. If you choose to be screened and the result is positive, you and your doctor should discuss whether any further intervention is appropriate or necessary.

To Screen Or Not Screen-That’s the Question, What’s the Answer?

October 20, 2011

Annual cancer tests are becoming a thing of the past. New guidelines for cervical cancer screening have experts at odds over some things, but they are united in the view that the common practice of getting a Pap test for cervical cancer every year is too often and probably doing more harm than good.
A Pap smear once every three years is the best way to detect cervical cancer. Recently it was recommended against prostate cancer screening with PSA tests, which many men get every year.
Two years ago, it said mammograms to check for breast cancer are only needed every other year starting at age 50, although the American Cancer Society still advises annual tests starting at age 40. A large study found more false alarms for women getting mammograms every year instead of every other year.
It’s a fact that the more tests that you do, the more likely you are to be faced with a false-positive test that leads to unnecessary biopsies and possible harm. We see an emerging consensus that annual Pap tests are not required for us to see the benefits that we have seen from screening.
Those benefits are substantial. Cervical cancer has declined dramatically in the United States, from nearly 15 cases for every 100,000 women in 1975 to nearly 7 per 100,000 in 2008. About 12,200 new cases and 4,210 deaths from the disease occurred last year, most of them in women who have never been screened or not in the past five years.
The cancer society and other groups say using Pap smears together with tests for HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer, could improve screening. Instead, reaching women who are not being adequately screened now probably could save more lives.
Bottom Line: Patients need to be informed about the benefits vs. the risks of screening. By being knowledgeable about the screening tests and having a discussion with your doctor is the best way to come to a decision about screening in your situation.