PSA test

  1. The risk of a PSA test outweighs the benefits

    The end of the PSA test?

    It's been a long time coming, but the PSA test used to screen men for prostate cancer is finally on the outs.

    The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has formally given a "D" to the PSA test. It's the lowest possible grade the guideline-writing agency issues, and it means the risks of the test outweigh the benefits.

    Naturally, there's been a lot of screaming from some doctors who want to keep using it, along with the men who believe the test led to a prostate surgery that saved their lives.

    In reality, the studies are remarkably consistent -- so consistent that I don't get why this new recommendation is controversial.

    Fact of the matter is that the PSA test has an incredibly high rate of false positives -- as high as 80 percent. That might be tolerable if it saved lives the other 20 percent of the time, but it doesn't.

    Instead, it often leads to treatments such as surgery that can come with serious long-term risks like incontinence and impotence -- and studies have shown that most of these men would have survived even without those life-ruining treatments.

    That's because prostate tumors grow so slowly you'll almost certainly live with them -- not die because of them.

    This isn't just a maverick opinion from the land of alternative health. It's the reason the very mainstream USPSTF is abandoning the test, the reason many mainstream doctors stopped using it long ago, and the reason even the man whose discovery led to the test -- Dr. Richard Ablin -- now regrets it.

    I don't think the PSA needs to be abandoned completely, as it may be of some use in men with a high risk of the disease -- such as men with a strong family history of prostate cancer. It can also be used to monitor men on testosterone therapy.

    But even then, it's just one tool in the toolbox and needs to be used alongside other better tools, such as the digital rectal exam and prostate ultrasound.

    If prostate cancer is diagnosed, many older men can safely take what's called the "watch and wait" approach, although I've never cared for the phrase. It sounds a little like "watch and do nothing," and that's exactly what you shouldn't do.

    Instead, work with a holistic doctor on getting the nutrition your body needs to slow, stop, and even reverse the growth of your prostate tumor. This used to be considered an "alternative" approach -- but thanks to the Task Force's decision, it's quickly moving into the mainstream.

    If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with prostate problems, consider getting help at my clinic.

  2. A not-so-fond farewell to the PSA test

    It's one of the smartest moves ever made by a government panel -- so naturally, they're catching hell for it.

    The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has urged docs and patients to put the kibosh on the PSA test -- because after some 2 million prostate surgeries and procedures based on that screening, the disease's death rate has remained unchanged.

    In other words, it's crystal clear that those PSA tests haven't saved lives. They've only increased the number of life-altering surgeries and other treatments that have left men battling side effects like incontinence, infection and sexual dysfunction.

    And in the cruelest irony of all, some men have even died as a direct result of those prostate screenings and surgeries.

    But I'm sure you've heard the noise by now: Instead of welcoming the Task Force's long-overdue move toward common sense, there have been howls of protest.

    Look closely, however, and you'll see none of them are coming from objective scientists.

    They're coming from people with a stake in continued PSA testing.

    The loudest cries are from the urologists and oncologists who've earned big money on prostate procedures over the years. In fact, as of this writing, the only major medical groups to come out against the new recommendations are urologists.

    Even the American Cancer Society has remained silent -- with some of its top officers admitting that PSA tests have led to the mass overtreatment of harmless prostate cancers.

    "We didn't start using this test because we had clinical trials that showed it worked -- we started using it because it was around and we were told it saves lives," Dr. Leonard Lichtenfeld, the organization's deputy chief medical officer told PBS News. "There's nothing to indicate that was true."

    But many of the men who've had a cancer detected by a PSA test -- and treatments on those cancers -- are convinced it saved their lives. They make up the other group protesting this, even though they have no way of knowing whether the treatment actually prevented their own death.

    In fact, the numbers show the opposite: They almost certainly would have lived a long and healthy life never even knowing they had prostate cancer -- and eventually, they would have died of something else.

    It's tough to believe that, especially if you've gone through the trauma of a prostate surgery and battled the side effects afterwards… but those numbers don't lie.

    And now, even the government is ready to admit it. The real question today is: Will your own doctor play along?

    I'm not done with prostate cancer yet -- keep reading for more on the vitamin that WON'T raise your risk.

  3. PSA tests don't save lives

    Another new study exposes the failed promise of the PSA test. Researchers have found that while these screenings may detect some cancers, they won't actually make a difference when it comes to survival.

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