Thursday, 7 November 2013

Men: grow your mo’s, but be aware of hazards with prostate screening

It’s considered good sense to have a regular prostate screening these days, especially with awareness campaigns like Mo-vember bringing attention to the issue.

But many men aren’t aware there are also health risks involved with screening, as A/ProfDragan Ilic of the Monash Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine told the Conversation.

The most common form of prostate screening, the PSA test, often fails to correctly diagnose cancer, but will incorrectly diagnose a healthy person.

The PSA test may fail to diagnose more than one in five cases where prostate cancer is present,” Prof Ilic said.

“The review also found the specificity of PSA tests ranged from 6% to 66%, which means the PSA test may incorrectly “diagnose” prostate cancer in the majority of patients who test positive to the PSA test, when in fact, they do not have the disease.”

The problem with over diagnosis is that it can lead to healthy people undergoing a biopsy of the prostate gland, and the commencement of cancer treatment. Side effects of these procedures include erectile dysfunction and incontinence, along with significant emotional distress.

“The 2013 Cochrane systematic review on screening for prostate cancer, which pooled analyses of five randomised controlled trials, concluded that screening did not significantly decrease prostate cancer-related deaths but that harms such as over-diagnosis were common,” he said.

A/Prof Ilic stressed that men should weigh the risks before requesting a prostate examination from their GP.  

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