Newsflash… hysterically attacking a man’s prostate with a scalpel or damaging radiation is a bad idea. Not only could it leave him impotent, incontinent or both – in many cases it could have zero benefits to boot.
A new study, published in the journal Cancer Research, recently confirmed what some of us on this side of the fence have been saying for years. After PSA screening and a prostate cancer diagnosis, watchful waiting… or what I like to call active surveillance… is usually the best choice.
And hey, although it may have taken years for them to get the message, it’s such an important one that you’re not going to hear me complain... much.
More on that new study in a moment, but first let’s take a look at where the problem really begins… with prostate cancer and PSA screening.
In 1994 the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test was approved by the FDA as a screening tool for prostate cancer and it quickly went into widespread use. Eventually, all men over 40 were being encouraged to get a yearly test. And if you were over 50 and not submitting to one every year you were practically labeled irresponsible.
“Early detection and early treatment!” became the battle cry, and the PSA was heralded as a lifesaver as we saw a surge in the detection of tumors. But buried underneath all that enthusiasm lurked some troublesome findings that were being overlooked and even ignored.
Why you may want to pass on the PSA screening
The PSA test delivers false positives… lots of them.
In fact, by some estimates there’s an astounding 80 percent chance that a positive PSA will turn out to be false! That means that every year thousands of men, and their families, are forced to live through the nightmare of believing they have cancer when they don’t.
Thousands of men will also be subjected to painful invasive biopsies as a result. And if a guy happens to have a particularly enthusiastic doctor, he could even suffer through a harsh cancer treatment unnecessarily.
You see, lots of things can cause a PSA level to fluctuate, like a urinary tract infection for example. Certain drugs can monkey with your numbers too. And you can even have a high PSA and not have cancer or a low PSA and still have the disease.
But wait, you haven’t even heard the worst of it yet.
Remember earlier when I said more tumors being detected? Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, appearances can be deceiving.
Sure lots of tumors are being found, but many of them are the slow-growing harmless kind that when left alone will never cause a lick of trouble. And if it weren’t for the PSA test a lot of guys with these so called “deadly” prostate tumors would live out their whole lives never even knowing they had one.
Impotent and in diapers
The truth is that many prostate cancers grow so slowly that many men shouldn’t be treated at all. And the insistence on regular PSA screening has backfired on us, leading to over diagnosis and, tragically, overtreatment.
When most men hear the word cancer—easily the most frightening word in the English language—they readily submit to the harsh treatments. And really, is it any wonder? After all, they’re scared and they just want the cancer out NOW.
And if the procedures were harmless that might be fine. But they’re not. They leave approximately 20 to 30 percent of the guys that get them unable to perform in the bedroom and wearing a diaper.
Even the mainstream US Preventive Services Taskforce took a stand against PSA tests last year when their own research found that for every 1,000 guys, only zero to one deaths (yes, ZERO) would be prevented by regular screenings over a 10 year period. But in that same decade 100 to 120 of the men would have a false positive test result, and about 50 would suffer serious treatment complications like impotence.
This brings us to that new study that I mentioned earlier.
Researchers analyzed the data on over 1,200 men diagnosed with prostate cancer and treated with surgery between 1982 and 2004. They found that PSA screening jumped from 42 percent in 1994 to 81 percent in 2000. (Part of that PSA popularity surge I told you about earlier.)
But the really telling finding is that the number of late-stage cancers dropped from 19.9 percent in the 1982 to 1993 group, to just 3 percent in the 2000 to 2004 group. That’s an 85 percent drop in stage at diagnosis. But at the same time there was only a moderate decrease in aggressive cancers.
And with a little further digging the researchers figured out that the lower percentage of aggressive cancers was deceiving. Screening hadn’t prevented cancers from progressing, but rather the percentage drop was because of an INCREASE in the diagnosis of the low-grade, often harmless tumors that enthusiastic PSA screening programs were turning up.
You see, the experts are starting to suspect that a prostate tumor’s aggressiveness is pretty much locked in when it first hits the scene. In other words, low-grade prostate cancers don’t appear to progress to higher grade ones over time, and we’re hysterically hacking away at prostates for no good reason.
If you’re diagnosed with prostate cancer, first take a deep breath, remind yourself that most of these tumors never cause trouble, and then work with a doctor skilled in natural medicine to come up with plan for monitoring, and if necessary, treating your tumor.