My colleague, Dr. William Campbell Douglass must be dancing a jig. A long-time opponent of unnecessary medical testing, the mainstream has finally come around to his way of thinking…at least as it pertains to prostate exams.
Although prostate cancer is the leading cause of death among American men, in many cases, the tumors grow so slowly that, rather than treat the disease, doctors opt for “watchful waiting.”In other words, they postpone treatment and keep an eye on the progression of the disease. Only moving into “treatment mode” if and when the disease worsens.
But the latest research (at least as far as the mainstream is concerned) shows that prostate cancer treatments may actually do more harm than the disease itself. Leaving many men incontinent, impotent or both—especially for men over 75.
And now, there’s evidence that doctors should stop doing routine prostate screening for men in this same age group as well. Of course, Dr. Douglass would tell you mammograms and all needle biopsies should come to an end as well—but I suppose we’ll have to accept our small victories when we can.
The PSA test, long considered a standard for prostate screening, has been shown to indicate false positives anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of the time. Leading to painful and unnecessary biopsies that often turn up nothing.
And in a prepared statement, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, wrote that they “could not find adequate proof that early detection leads to fewer men dying of the disease.”
In fact, a recent study showed that among men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer and chose to forgo treatment, most were still alive 10 years later, without significant symptoms. Or they had died of unrelated causes.
So what does this mean for you? It means if you’re over 75, it’s worth asking your doctor if a prostate screening is really necessary. Especially, if you’re living without any obvious symptoms like pain, incontinence or difficulty urinating.
And if you’ve already been diagnosed with prostate cancer, depending upon which treatment options your doctor has suggested, you may want to ask your doctor if “watchful waiting” might be an appropriate course of action for you.