Prostate Cancer Screenings: Helpful or Harmful?

By September 15, 2014Aging in Place

Older males tend to shy away from the topic of prostate cancer, but – as one of the most important and prominent modern health topics among male community – the discussion is necessary. Screening for prostate cancer is a highly contested procedure. That’s because screening for the disease using the PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) test may or may not be a good idea. So, what should seniors and their caregivers understand about the PSA screening process and, and more importantly, should seniors get screened for prostate cancer?

The Debate
Common sense would tell you that early screening for a disease raises the patient’s chances of stopping it before it grows to an untreatable scale. Unfortunately prostate cancer screenings just aren’t that simple and many medical experts offer polar opposite opinions as to whether or not prostate cancer screening is appropriate for all men.

Among the medical experts who promote PSA screenings, previously conducted research indicates that locating and treating prostate cancer in its earliest stages saves lives. By tackling the disease early and aggressively, men theoretically enjoy a longer and healthier lifestyle. Pro-screeners suggest men with a life expectancy of 10 years and over are screened.

Some people believe the PSA test does more harm than good, citing the lack of evidence to support the procedure’s life-saving capabilities. Most prostate cancers are extremely slow-growing, never affecting a man’s health. In fact, many men die with prostate cancer that has never affected them. Because the test can’t differentiate between harmful cancers and those that will never affect the person, many men who get the test are treated for cancer unnecessarily. Another concern is that the treatment may have very serious side effects, such as impotence and incontinence.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an organization that makes recommendations for doctors based on reviews of all the available evidence, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) do not recommend that men of all ages get a PSA screening test for prostate cancer.

The Decision
Deciding whether or not a senior should be screened for prostate cancer is a choice that should be made under the guidance of a medical professional. Though the PSA test is a point of contention, medical experts do agree that men currently experiencing symptoms of prostate cancer – such as difficulty urinating or blood in the urine – should be tested for prostate cancer as soon as possible.

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