This week, the United States Preventive Services Task Force is expected to announce its recommendation against routine testing for blood levels of prostate-specific antigen, the protein that can be a signal of prostate cancer. The panel says research shows that over all, the test does not save lives and leads to unnecessary surgery and radiation treatment for slow-growing cancers that would never have caused harm. As for faster-growing, invasive cancers, there’s no proof that P.S.A. tests and earlier treatment offer any overall benefit.Tough choice. Have the test, and possibly over treat drastically, and potentially cause more damage than the disease itself, or skip the test and miss an aggressive cancer until it is too late.
Many men do remain convinced that the test saved their lives by helping their doctors detect cancer in its earliest stages. But others are now left second-guessing their decisions, questioning a medical system that pressured them not only to undergo screening, but to be treated aggressively once cancer was detected..
But now, especially after the policy debacle that the recent change in mammogram guidelines produced, you have to question whether the change is being made in the best interest in patients or the financial health of the health care system.