Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer mortality in men behind lung cancer. The PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test, even with limitations, is the best screening method we have today, along with the DRE (digital rectal exam). Recently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a panel of non Urological/Oncological experts who review medical evidence for the government, published an open draft recommendation indicating men should stop routine PSA blood tests which helps to screen for prostate cancer. It is my opinion that such a carte blanche recommendation is both regressive and unfortunate.
Not withstanding the aggressiveness or non aggressiveness of prostate cancer, men should not be denied the knowledge of knowing a malignancy may reside within them. With such knowledge, each man can make an informed decision as to how to manage his condition. This option to choose should not be dictated by a 16-member government-sponsored panel. The patient should make such decision in the comfort of his home, surrounded by loved ones.
My response to this draft recommendation from the USPSTF is in the wake of recently seeing a 40-year-old asymptomatic African-American male in my office last week with an aggressive prostate cancer. He presented to an astute primary care physician who ordered a routine PSA, which was 5.5. If this gentleman does not receive prompt therapy, it is highly likely he will die of his disease. How would the proposed recommendations help this young man delay death from his cancer?
JAMES B. BENTON, M.D.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. James Benton is a radiation oncologist for Radiotherapy Clinics of Georgia.