The march of common sense, amazingly, continues as the American Cancer Society takes a big step away from PSA tests.
It's one of the most inaccurate and unnecessary medical tests ever designed... and as a diagnostic tool, it's practically worthless. Yet millions of men have been given these exams as a routine part of aging.
That could be about to change.
In its first major revision of prostate cancer screening guidelines in nearly a decade, the American Cancer Society now says doctors need to explain to their patients the problems with this test before they offer it. That means discussing the high risk of false positives and the fact that we now know this test leads to overtreatments-- including millions of unnecessary and life-altering surgeries.
They're also recommending that docs ditch digital rectal exams altogether--or a least stop giving them automatically--since they've shown no benefit at all.
Hear that? That's the sound of the earth moving. But while these groundbreaking new recommendations are a step in the right direction, this is only a single step.
After all, they're not abandoning these tests completely, which would be a real win for common sense... just limiting them and opening up the door for more informed decision- making. That's when docs explain the options, and then ask patients for their input--instead of just ordering them around, as many of them have been accustomed to doing.
What happens now is up to those doctors--and their patients. Will doctors REALLY tell their patients about the problems with these tests? Will patients really take the time to understand the risks?
It's like buying a car... never trust the salesman's word. But unless you do your homework before you reach the dealer, his word is all you'll have.
The truth of the matter is that most people who develop prostate cancer do so late in life... or at least late enough that this slow-growing disease will never pose a threat. We're all going to die of something... but the odds are pretty low you'll die of prostate cancer.
The treatment, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of healthy aging--and comes with side effects that include incontinence and impotence, a one-two punch that could have you spending your final years in misery.
All for a treatment you never needed to begin with.