POSTED: Monday, January 9, 2012 - 8:00am
UPDATED: Monday, January 9, 2012 - 8:00am
Study finds no evidence that PSA testing helps men live longer.
New research offers no evidence that blood tests routinely given to men to check for prostate cancer help them live longer.
Still, some patients call those tests life saving.
Andrew Cox felt strongly that he wanted to rid his body of prostate cancer when he was diagnosed more than a year ago.
"I didn't want to let it grow and get worse," he says.
He was successfully treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center in his hometown of Houston, Texas giving much of the credit to the PSA blood test that first spotted his cancer.
"I had no symptoms, so the PSA tests, I think, saved my life," he says.
While that may be true, new research from Washington University in St. Louis goes many patients' gut reactions, finding early detection for prostate cancer does not always translate into longer lives.
"After screening these men for up to 13 years, we can find no reduction in their chance of dying of prostate cancer," explains Dr. Gerald Andriole.
PSA blood tests detect cancerous prostate cells.
Those cells grow so slowly that most men will go on to live long, otherwise healthy lives, ultimately dying of something other than prostate cancer.
Going forth with aggressive treatments like surgery can leave men with sexual and urinary problems for the rest of their lives.
Doctors say only certain subsets of men may benefit from early detection.
"African American men and other men who have a strong family history of prostate cancer," says Dr. Andriole.
Doctors say Andrew Cox is part of a small percentage of men for whom PSA testing is necessary.
"I'm cancer free and I would have not known anything about it without having the PSA screening," he says.
It appears many men may be better off if their prostate cancer cells are never discovered.
Although a government agency recommended against routine PSA blood testing for most men last year, men are still able to get the tests if they choose to.