PSA screening has always been somewhat controversial. That’s because PSA tests often alert doctors to the presence of cancer, but there is no precise way to determine, definitively, whether the cancers detected would have ever caused symptoms or harm during a man’s lifetime
Boston (Vocus) March 11, 2010
Harvard Medical School today released its first ever Annual Report on Prostate Diseases, which covers the basics in the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), erectile dysfunction, prostatitis, and related issues, along with recent scientific and medical advances. A group of talented prostate disease specialists contributed to the publication.
Also included in this groundbreaking report is an explanation of the growing body of evidence indicating that the benefits of PSA screening may not outweigh the potential harm of unnecessary treatment, a concept that counters current medical practice.
Given the ongoing debate, Dr. Marc Garnick, editor in chief of the 2010 Annual Report on Prostate Diseases, invited three experts to participate in a roundtable discussion on screening. The trio shared their thoughts on PSA screening and explained its pros and cons in easy-to-understand terms. An edited version of their conversation appears in the publication to help readers make an informed decision about PSA screening for themselves.
Here is an excerpt from the report:
“PSA screening has always been somewhat controversial. That’s because PSA tests often alert doctors to the presence of cancer, but there is no precise way to determine, definitively, whether the cancers detected would have ever caused symptoms or harm during a man’s lifetime,” the report explains. “One study estimated overdetection to rise with age, from 27% at age 55 to 56% by age 75. Despite this, to be on the safe side, most men with elevated PSA levels will opt for treatment, frequently suffering side effects such as incontinence and impotence.”
In the past few years, more and more men who undergo PSA screening and later learn that they have cancer have opted to pursue active surveillance. This strategy involves frequent monitoring of the disease through PSA tests and biopsies—and postponing treatment until the cancer shows signs of increasing its activity. In short, these men choose to live with prostate cancer until it advances, sometimes avoiding potentially life-altering side effects for several years.
Among other things, readers will learn about the following topics not only from world-renowned experts, but also from patients living with prostate disease:
- options in radiation therapy for prostate cancer
- medications for an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia)
- treating erectile dysfunction and incontinence after prostate surgery
- easing the pain of prostatitis
- complementary therapies for prostate diseases.
Dr. Garnick, a distinguished expert in medical oncology and urologic cancer, serves as the publication’s editor in chief. He is a clinical professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and he maintains an active clinical practice at the Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Dr. Garnick also authored A Patient’s Guide to Prostate Cancer.
The 136-page 2010 Annual Report on Prostate Diseases is currently available for $59 from Harvard Health Publications (http://www.health.harvard.edu), the publishing division of Harvard Medical School. To order a copy, call 877–649–9457 (toll-free) or visit http://www.health.harvard.edu/ProstateAnnual.
Members of the media: Contact Raquel Schott at Raquel_Schott(at)hms(dot)harvard(dot)edu for a complimentary copy of the report or to receive our press releases directly.
Harvard Health Publications
Contact: Raquel Schott