Health & Wellness
Is Prostate Cancer Screening Still Necessary?
While the popular press has been quick to publish recent pronouncements by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggesting that annual PSA tests and digital rectal exams as screening for prostate cancer may no longer be recommended, as a physician who has seen tens of thou-sands of men whose lives were saved by early diagnosis through annual screening, I heartily disagree. As evidence of this folly, a research news story out of Northwestern University in late July ran this headline: Metastatic Prostate Cancer Cases Skyrocket – Increase maybe due to lax screening or more aggressive disease.
Prostate cancer is still the second most common cancer (next to skin cancer) in the human species – diagnosed even more often that breast cancer! The sheer numbers can be one of the reasons annual screening has come under the microscope of the government’s “preventive services” task force. Many cases equal many dollars invested by Medicare. The great majority of men with prostate cancer in this country are of Medicare age, thus these screening expenses are subject to government scrutiny.
Granted, some of the men with abnormal screening results upon biopsy (the required follow-up to diagnose the disease) will have a negative result. The cost of the biopsy (and perhaps several follow-up biopsies) is at the heart of the debate over costs. New pre-biopsy testing is helping to reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies, and therefore curb the costs, however.
While understanding the need to wrestle some control over the escalating spending for health-care in our country, I cannot see that eliminating annual screening will solve any problem. By not screening, men are left to take their chances of developing prostate cancer and not knowing it until the disease is advanced enough (metastatic) to cause symptoms. At this point, damage is done, treating is much more difficult and the opportunity to be rid of the disease is severely reduced. And – much more of the healthcare dollar pool will have to be invested in the treatment and long-term care of the patient.
Make no mistake – untreated prostate cancer can be a fatal disease with months and even years of painful demise as the cancer invades the bones, organs and brain.
The not-for-profit Dattoli Cancer Foundation was created in part to educate men about the importance of annual screening, and to provide this essential service for those who do not have funds or a local doctor to provide it. For the past 16 years, the Foundation has offered FREE prostate cancer screening to the community twice a year.
We will again open our doors on Saturday, September 11, 2016 from 10 am until 2 pm to pro-vide FREE PSA blood tests and digital rectal exams (DRE) for any man who wishes to come by. There are no appointments, just show up. And there is no need to fast before the test. Results will be sent to participants by mail within two weeks.
I am proud that donations to our Foundation make this service possible. We have provided more than 3,000 free tests since opening our Center in 2001. If you miss the September (National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month) event, we will have another one in January of 2017.