An ongoing, long-term study which was originally launched in 1993 has just published their most recent findings which show that men who had been screened for prostate cancer on an annual basis were no less likely to die from the disease than those who were screened only as a result of their doctor’s recommendation.
The study involved 76,000 men who were between the ages of 55 to 74 and took place over a period of 6 years, each of the men has been subsequently monitored for at least 10 years and some for as long as 13 years.
The research was carried out at the Washington University School of Medicine and led by Dr. Gerald Andriole. According to Dr. Andriole, the findings suggested that prostate cancer screening should be carried on healthier, younger men as well as being targeted at those who are known to be at risk, due to their family history.
PSA, a method of screening men used to establish if they have prostate cancer, is widely used across the full spectrum of men aged 50 and above even if they have no reason to suspect they have the disease.
There are currently two screening methods; one is by taking a blood sample in order to measure it for the specific concentration of a molecule called the prostate-specific antigen, or PSA. The other is for a doctor to undertake a physical examination.
PSA has been controversial for almost as long as it has been available. Although prostate cancer is universally recognized as being a painful and potentially fatal illness, it often progresses at such a slow pace that it won’t cause the patient any problems.
Unfortunately, neither of the screening methods which are currently available is able to identify how the cancer will advance. Screening protocol has long been a balancing act between the desire to save lives and potentially unnecessary treatment which may leave a man unable to perform sexually or incontinent.
Experts in the field who impugn the benefits of regular screening believe that there is a general tendency to assume that any test which identifies a disease is a positive thing. They argue that each patient needs to have a consultation with their own doctor about their individual case before a screening decision is taken.
There is also growing concern relating to large scale screening as opponents consider that education and discussions regarding the pros and cons are often missed out and leave men with very little information and wondering why they have been tested.