Prostate Cancer Diagnoses Continue to Fall
Diagnoses of early prostate cancer are on the decline in America, thanks to U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations against routine screening. According to some experts, however, these statistics don’t necessarily point toward fewer cases of the disease.
Why the Decline?
Because symptoms can take years to develop, prostate cancer often goes unnoticed until it has spread to other parts of the body. To improve early detection, doctors often rely on prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-based screening. Unfortunately, because these tests aren’t 100-percent accurate, they often lead to false positives that can cause anxiety and lead to unnecessary follow-up tests.
In 2012, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued a statement recommending against routine PSA screenings. Over the next two years, there was a 25 percent drop in diagnoses of early prostate cancer in American men aged 50.
Is it Good News?
While some suggest improved preventive measures could play some role in the declining number of diagnoses, experts are quick to point out that the statistical drop is consistent with the drop in PSA screening. While fewer PSA tests may indeed spare healthy men from anxiety, it could also prevent early interventions in men who actually have the disease. Because it is a slow-growing tumor, prostate cancer can be a silent killer. Without PSA screening, some men remain unaware of their disease until it has metastasized during late stages.
New Studies Raise Alarm
According to a study published in the journal Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases, advanced prostate cancer rates in the U.S. have jumped considerably over the past few years. While they can’t say for sure, many point toward the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendations as a likely cause.
What Should You Do?
While some experts blame the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendations for increased rates of advanced prostate cancer, others say the guidelines are being misunderstood. In reality, these recommendations only advise against routine screening for low-risk individuals. They also call for informed decision-making regarding potential benefits and potential risks.
If you are at a high risk of prostate cancer, consider a screening at age 40. If you have an average risk, health experts recommend a screening at age 50. It’s important to remember that over 80 percent of prostate cancer cases occur in men over 65. That said, if you are African-American or have a family history of the disease, talk to your doctor about getting screened at an earlier age.