PSA Testing Gets A Boost
An important doctors' group is breaking with other leading medical experts and continuing to recommend PSA testing for prostate cancer. Not only that, the group is actually lowering the age at which it recommends men start getting the test.
PSA testing has become one of the most controversial issues in health. Many men routinely undergo the blood test to try to spot prostate cancer early. There's no question the screening can do that, but many doctors have begun to challenge routine PSA testing because it often leads to unnecessary biopsies and treatment for a cancer that may never be life-threatening. Prostate cancer is often so slow growing that it never actually causes problems. Two major studies released last month fueled doubts about PSA testing when they failed to find clear evidence it reduced the chances of dying from prostate cancer.
But the American Urological Association begs to differ in its updated recommendations on PSA testing released Monday. The guidelines say PSA testing can be very useful in spotting cancer early and helping men and their doctors make decisions. The guidelines lower the age that it says doctors should offer it to men from 50 to 40.
The key, the guidelines say, is how the results are used. For example, the other big change the guidelines recommend is how the results are interpreted. Instead of doing a biopsy simply when the PSA level goes above a certain level, the guidelines say the PSA "velocity" is more important. That's how fast the PSA level is rising. If a man's PSA rises very quickly over a short period of time, the guidelines say, that's when a biopsy may be necessary.
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