A flurry of confusing research about the benefits of PSA testing has left many men and their physicians reticent to use a test that may be life-saving, says a panel of prostate cancer experts. The experts who gathered on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday agreed that PSA testing, while not cancer-specific, is one of the best available tools for early detection of a cancer that kills 27,000 American men each year.
"Every man has the right to know if he has cancer," said Jonathan W. Simons, MD, president and CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation. "And right now, the PSA test and an informed discussion with their doctor are the best tools men have for an early diagnosis."
Conflicting major studies from 2009 about the value of PSA screening in men created many questions about whether the test leads to unnecessary intervention. Experts agree that prostate cancer is often overtreated, leading to an estimated $3 billion in unnecessary health care expenditures each year.
Yet, the panel agreed on Tuesday that men with a higher risk of prostate cancer—such as health profile, race or family history—should talk to their physicians about a baseline screening at age 40. Generally speaking, all men should partner with their doctor to create a proactive prostate health plan that is right for them based on their lifestyle and family history.
"This underscores the acute need for better diagnostics in prostate cancer," continued Simons. "Fortunately, we are on the cusp of many promising advances that will tell us not only whether cancer is present, but also help us distinguish between the mostly benign slow-growing cancers and the fast-moving deadly cancers."