When it comes to prostate cancer screening, the question of "should I or shouldn't I" get screened often conjures up feelings and facial reactions that cause a tightening of all the cheeks for many men. But with over 250,000 cases expected to be diagnosed this year and over 28,000 men expected to die from prostate cancer, you would think that question is a no-brainer. But not so fast.
The area of prostate cancer screening has been under intense scrutiny over the last several years and it seems that scrutiny has picked up over the last couple of months. You may have heard about some guy by the name of Warren Buffett being diagnosed with prostate cancer back in April. You would think a parade would be thrown in honor of the physician who performed the test thereby potentially saving the life of the "guru of investment" for the world famous Berkshire Hathaway company...last check showed the stock trading at $119,500 per share. As you might have already guessed, there was no parade for Mr. Buffett's physician. If anything, some people stop just short of gathering pitch forks and torches and taking to the streets to protest the screening of a man over 80 years old for prostate cancer! After all, most experts agree that any man over 70 is going to have some case of prostate cancer but it may not be prostate cancer that eventually takes his life. Many emotionally charged debates have occured between professionals and lay person's about whether the physician did the right thing by screening Mr. Buffett.
After all the debate most practitioners and researchers agree that men over 70 shouldn't be screened. But you may be saying, hey I'm a healthy man in my 40's or 50's, should I be getting screened? Well, according to the recently released recommendation from the US Preventive Task Force, no healthy man should be screened for prostate cancer using the PSA (prostate-specific antigen). Never ever you ask...ever ever. The reasoning by the task force is that there is too little evidence showing that this blood test saves lives. But there are two sides to this coin of to be screened or not. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed the PSA had benefits when it comes to reducing mortality. Does that mean you should run out to your nearest doctor's office and scream for a PSA?
Of all the information that is available about prostate cancer and prostate cancer screening, much of it points to being informed as a patient in order to participate in the final decision to be screened or not. As we are all engineered differently taking into account age, body make up, diet, family history, and ethnicity, being an informed consumer of health and speaking with your doctor may be the best remedy to deciding what's the right answer for you when it comes to prostate cancer screening.