Contradicting government recommendations four years ago that men should not get routine PSA testing, a new study says this simple blood test used to detect prostate cancer can reduce the number of deadly cases.
For Foothills Urology prostate surgeon Derek Zukosky, DO, the new findings reinforce his longtime position. “I strongly believe every man with a life expectancy greater than 10 years should be offered the option of prostate screening including a rectal exam and PSA test. The issue isn’t the screening—it’s what’s we do with the information that it produces and the interventions we do or do not employ,” Zukosky says.
Prostate specific antigen, or PSA, testing measures antigens in the blood that are linked to the presence of prostate cancer. Since PSA testing was introduced in the early 1990s, the United States has seen about a 50 percent reduction in the death rate from prostate cancer, but questions remain about the role testing played. Prostate cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death among American men and the second most common cancer in men after skin cancer.
In 2012, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended against routine PSA testing, saying the benefit was offset by the risk of exposing men to potentially unnecessary treatment. The 2012 recommendation cited the possibility that PSA screenings could identify cancers that would never spread and never pose a risk. Detecting such non-threatening cancers would, overall, provide little benefit, but could needlessly expose men to treatment that carries potential side effects, including erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence, and bowel dysfunction, according to the recommendation.