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Archive for Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Prostate screening test advice won’t stop debate

August 6, 2008

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— New advice that men over 75 should not be screened for prostate cancer won't quell the long-standing controversy over the usefulness of the blood test for the disease, cancer experts said Tuesday.

"It stokes the debate, I think," said Dr. Charles Ryan, a prostate cancer specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.

And several experts are looking ahead to new research that may provide more specific guidance for all age groups.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a panel of experts who guide national health care, issued its report Monday based on a review of past research. The task force found that screening can detect some cases of prostate cancer, but the benefits of treatment in men over 75 "are small to none."

Treatment often causes "moderate-to-substantial harms," including impotence and bladder control and bowel problems, the task force said, without evidence it saves the lives of these elderly men.

The panel did not recommend for or against prostate screening of men under 75 but suggested that doctors discuss the potential benefits and harms of the test with their patients.

"I think it's a very well done and justifiable recommendation," said Dr. Barnett Kramer, associate director of disease prevention at the National Institutes of Health. "They continue to say the jury is still out for men under 75."

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men - about 186,000 cases will be diagnosed this year, according to the American Cancer Society. It is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in men. But most tumors grow so slowly they never threaten lives.

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