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The Truth About Prostate Cancer Screening: More Harmful Than Good?

By    |   Monday, 29 February 2016 06:54 PM

You might think prostate cancer screening is recommended on a recurring basis, but some experts argue it's not necessary and may cause more harm than good.

The American Cancer Society recommends men who are healthy and do not have close relatives that developed prostate cancer at an early age should begin screenings at the age of 50 and be re-evaluated every other year.

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However, prostate cancer screening tests are not perfect in determining whether or not a person has cancer, and since it's a slow-spreading disease, some doctors say the risks of testing outweigh the benefits.

The prostate-specific antigen blood test, also known as PSA, is not 100 percent accurate, says the Mayo Clinic. Reports of healthy people having a PSA level that indicates the presence of cancer is not uncommon, the Clinic says, and likewise, men with the cancer have had PSA levels lower than the standard measurement.

The discrepancy is because both cancerous and nonmalignant prostate tissue produce PSA. Cancerous tissues typically cause more PSA to enter into the bloodstream, but since this differs between individuals, it can be difficult to determine from a PSA test if a person has cancer or not.

Additionally, needle biopsies, also used for prostate cancer screening, can be harmful to the body, especially if the procedure is unnecessary, USA Today reports.

Prostate cancer screenings that indicate the disease can lead to treatments with numerous side effects, especially for those who are mistakenly diagnosed. These risks include developing urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and bowel dysfunction, says the Mayo Clinic.

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Likewise, the Annals of Internal Medicine states therapy following a diagnosis may have an unfavorable outcome on the patient’s quality of life as well as his longevity, making the benefit of the screenings unclear.

Fortunately, prostate cancer is a slowly spreading disease. For this reason, some experts say men over the age of 70 or those who have been given fewer than 10 years to live need not worry about the tests, the American Cancer Society notes.

Nonetheless, prostate cancer screenings have shown to save the lives of people through early detection and subsequent treatment. And activists for regular screenings argue the more the tests are performed, the closer researchers may get to finding a cure for prostate cancer.

Men should discuss their cancer risk and potential symptoms with a doctor to decide whether or not prostate cancer screenings are a good option for them.

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You might think prostate cancer screening is recommended on a recurring basis, but some experts argue it's not necessary and may cause more harm than good.
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Monday, 29 February 2016 06:54 PM
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