TUESDAY, May 22 (HealthDay News) -- Although a U.S. advisory panel no longer recommends that men routinely undergo prostate cancer screening with a PSA blood test, men should ask their doctors for the exam if they're uncomfortable without monitoring, health experts say.
Urologists and cancer experts dismissed the idea that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's criticism of the PSA test will set a man's personal agenda or interfere with doctor-patient relationships. They acknowledged, however, that health insurers are likely to take notice of the new recommendation, released May 22 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, and potentially alter coverage of the screening test.
In abandoning earlier guidelines that called for screening to start at 50, the task force said the PSA test does more harm than good, resulting in overdiagnosis of many slow-growing cancers while prompting aggressive treatment that can leave men impotent or incontinent. The test measures blood levels of prostate-specific antigen, a protein produced by the prostate gland.
Judicious use of potentially risky tests and treatments can help mitigate those problems, said Dr. Sandip Prasad, a urologic oncology research fellow at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
"As we adopt smarter treatment strategies ... the goal is always to identify men who are going to die of prostate cancer. Taking away the PSA reduces our ability to do that," Prasad said. "Most of us are very open with our patients about the limits of PSA testing. Screening doesn't have to get this big ball rolling that takes you to the bottom of a hill."
About 28,000 American men will die of prostate cancer -- the second most common malignancy in men -- this year, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Despite the PSA test's high false-positive rate, which can trigger painful and unnecessary biopsies, no
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