POSTED: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 9:47am
UPDATED: Friday, November 4, 2011 - 6:52pm
A simple blood test known as the PSA has been considered an essential part of the prostate cancer screening process. PSA stands for Prostate Specific Antigen, high levels of which in the bloodstream can be a warning sign for cancer. Last week the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force issued a ground breaking new recommendation. The suggestion? PSA testing should no longer be part of routine screening for healthy men over 50, because costs outweigh the benefits. One local Oncologist, Dr. Balesh Sharma disagrees.
"If we implement the current guidelines, we will undo twenty years of progress and we will cause a lot of unnecessary deaths from prostate cancer. Since we've actually started the prostate screening process, there has been a 40% decline in the death rate from prostate cancer."
Dr. sharma believes grouping patients and carefully selecting them for further inspection could prevent them from future harm.
He says, "Do the screening at the appropriate age. Select out the group that needs to be biopsed, the other people we can just watch over a period of time."
Dr. sharma says the recommendations from the task force are too risky for patients.
"The death rate per year for prostate cancer is 30,000."
He also says doing away with screening would be detrimental to patients because it doesn't pose any real threat, the way a surgery might.
"Remember that screening is not surgery. It's not radiation and it's not even active surveliance; It's just screening."
While critics of routine PSA testing say it can lead to false positives, needless anxiety and costly overtreatment, no one denies that the PSA can save lives.