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Prostate Cancer Numbers Decreasing – But Why?

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The rate of prostate cancer has been on the decline for some time, but it still ranks number 2 when it comes to cancer-related deaths among men. The downward trend goes beyond the rates of diagnosis, though. Health screening services and treatment numbers for the disease are on the decline too. An important argument is behind the changing statistics, and it might just impact you.

The Argument

In 2012,  the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a volunteer group of experts who advocate for evidence-based practices in medicine, argued that prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing was potentially harmful. They believed that PSA testing was leading to unnecessary cancer treatment for many men, opening the door to needless complications like erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence.  

The USPSTF pointed to the fact that not every kind of prostate cancer requires surgery or radiation. “Clinically insignificant” forms of the disease benefit from a watch and wait, or “active surveillance” approach. The point being, positive PSA tests do not always call for intervention and should only be used with caution.

What The Data Revealed

Dr. James Kearns, from the University of Washington School of Medicine, wanted to know if the argument the USPSTF was making had any merit or influence in the medical community. To find out, he and his team analyzed health data information for more than 6 million men around the time of USPSTF claims.

They found that from 2009-2014, the number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer, treated for it, and tested for it, declined. They noted a significant drop in these areas after 2011, which led Kearns to agree that the PSA testing awareness and active surveillance campaign played a role. It appeared the increased caution toward PSA testing caused the downward turn and improved patient care.

Why It Matters To You

It’s no secret that PSA testing has limits. While abnormal results can point to cancer, other factors can easily influence results as well, like an enlarged prostate, prostatitis, and age. Over-reliance on PSA testing can cause otherwise healthy men to undergo additional procedures like biopsies and surgeries, which are fraught with their own complications.

Does that mean you should skip out on PSA testing altogether? Not necessarily. In fact, when it comes to early detection, screening plays a key role. Finding prostate cancer early leads to better outcomes and reduces the odds of cancer spreading to other areas of the body.

The current USPSTF recommendations state that men 55-69 should make a decision about PSA testing on an individualized basis with their healthcare provider. Men over 70 should avoiding testing altogether. This differs from the American Cancer Society recommendations, which are specific to age, risk, and family history. A thorough healthcare consultation with your doctor will help you decide what is right for you.

Health screening is one of the most important strategies of primary health care you can pursue. It is best to approach prostate cancer concerns with a provider who has an up-to-date knowledge of screening limitations and an understanding of alternative testing methods. A doctor who is cautious, yet thorough is key, because prostate cancer, despite its decline on paper, is still a serious concern for men. One in nine men will get a diagnosis for it in their lifetime.

The right care team and health screening promotion could mean the difference between diagnosis and treatment, and fewer complications for you. With simple blood tests available, like Hanson Medical Systems Inc. Prostate Screening Tests, getting results is easier than ever before. We are a “woman-owned business,” but our company is dedicated to helping men improve their health and we want to a play a role in prostate cancer prevention.

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