Washington Panel Concludes That a PSA Blood Test Can Still Save Your Life

In the midst of the medical community’s controversy regarding PSA blood testing a panel of prostate cancer experts brought together on Capitol Hill clearly concluded that a PSA blood test can save your life and is still the best tool for early detection of prostate cancer.  The statement of the panel reflected an understanding that men who are concerned about prostate cancer want to know if they have the disease or not and the PSA blood test is the best way to find out.  Overtreatment of prostate cancer is a macroeconomic concern – on an individual basis knowledge is still power.

Experts To Men: Controversy Aside, PSA Test Can Still Save Your Life

Article Date: 25 Apr 2010

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.”

These experimental blood and urine tests that examine genetic markers will help physicians hone in on the more aggressive cancers and ensure that treatment is used on those who actually need it. The federal government is currently funding critical pieces of research, primarily through the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) for prostate cancer, that have led to important advances in the state of the science.

“We need to make sure that policymakers understand the imperative to maintain this level of research,” says Ward “Trip” Casscells, MD, Retired Assistant Secretary of Defense, and Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Texas Health Science Center. “Without that investment, we will continue to throw money away each year on overtreatment.”

The experts on the panel concluded that there is still much work to be done in advancing the diagnostics and treatments for prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in America, affecting 1 in 6 men. In 2009, more than 192,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and more than 27,000 men died from the disease. One new case occurs every 2.7 minutes and a man dies from prostate cancer every 19 minutes. It is estimated that there are more than 2 million American men currently living with prostate cancer.

The panel was moderated by Dr. Trip Casscells and included experts from the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the AUA Foundation, Johns Hopkins University Medical Center, the Louis Warschaw Prostate Cancer Center at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, UCLA and the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program. Richard Steele, a prostate cancer survivor and on-air radio host for Chicago Public Radio, also participated. A video archive of the discussion can be found at http://www.pcf.org.


Prostate Cancer Foundation

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