(NaturalNews) Men, especially after the age of 50, have long been told they need to be screened regularly for the dreaded disease of prostate cancer with a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. The reason? Because if caught early, this common cancer can be treated before it supposedly kills. Sound familiar? If you think these are the facts about prostate cancer, it's time to learn the real truth.
None other than a large mainstream medical group, the American College of Physicians (ACP), has just released a statement changing recommendations for prostate cancer screening. And while the official statement emphasizes that the ACP is saying patients need to be better informed and work with doctors to decide on screening, let's take a look at the far more important facts revealed in the announcement.
Why is the ACP saying men between the ages of 50 and 69 should discuss PSA tests before submitting to them? Because there are a myriad of problems with the expensive and fear-producing tests. As the ACP media statement says, the PSA test has "limited benefits and substantial harms."
Harm outweighs benefits
"Only men between the ages of 50 and 69 who express a clear preference for screening should have the PSA test. For most of these men, the harms will outweigh the benefits," said ACP president David L. Bronson, MD, in a media statement.
How specific is the PSA when it comes to revealing cancer? Not very.
The "Screening for Prostate Cancer: A Guidance Statement from the American College of Physicians" paper just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, reveals serious problems with the PSA test. For example, PSA test results may be low when there is cancer. But, far more commonly, PSA results may be high because of an enlarged prostate but not because of any life threatening malignancy.
In fact, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), it is common for the prostate gland to become enlarged as a man ages, a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or benign prostatic hypertrophy. So what is essentially a common change in the body that goes along with aging in many men can set off alarm bells when it causes PSA levels to rise, sending men for more testing and potentially unneeded -- but harmful -- treatment.
Most prostate cancers are not serious, never kill
Following an elevated PSA test, a prostate biopsy is often ordered and it's not the simple, risk-free procedure many people assume it to be. The new guideline statement says this: "The biopsy involves multiple needles being inserted into the prostate under local anesthesia, and there is a small risk of infection or significant bleeding as well as risk of hospitalization."
But isn't it worth the risk if cancer is discovered? In the majority of cases, no. According to Amir Qaseem, MD, PhD, Director of Clinical Policy for the ACP, only a small number of prostate cancers are serious and can cause death.
"The vast majority of prostate cancers are slow-growing and do not cause death. It is important to balance the small benefits from screening with harms such as the possibility of incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and other side effects that result from certain forms of aggressive treatment," Dr. Qaseem said in a media statement.
Specifically, if cancer is diagnosed (no matter how unlikely the cancer is to ever cause death), it will often be treated with surgery or radiation. The ACP statement points out these treatments include a risk of death with surgery, loss of sexual function (approximately 37 percent higher risk), and loss of control of urination (approximately 11 percent higher risk) compared to no surgery.
The new ACP guidelines recommends against PSA testing at all in average-risk men younger than 50, in men older than 69, or in men who have a life expectancy of less than 10 to 15 years because the harms of prostate cancer screening outweigh the benefits.
As NaturalNews has previously reported, there is another possible downside to prostate cancer treatments scientists are studying. According to findings by Chawnshang Chang, PhD, director of the George Whipple Laboratory for Cancer Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center, a common form of hormone therapy for prostate cancer may actually spur cancer cells to grow and spread.
About the author: Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA''''s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine''''s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic''''s "Men''''s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.