Prostate cancer: PSA screening tests do more harm than good

Prostate cancer: PSA screening tests do more harm than good

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Are so-called PSA tests recommended?

Researchers found that routine tests for prostate cancer appear to do more harm than good. In addition, this test does not save human lives through early diagnosis in patients without symptoms, according to a recent study. The use of the tests is therefore fundamentally questioned.

The University of Bristol scientists found that routine prostate cancer tests often do more harm than they prevent. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Journal of the American Medical Association" (JAMA).

Researchers examined more than 400,000 men

A total of more than 400,000 men were involved in the current study, which looked at the effectiveness of so-called prostate-specific antigen tests (PSA tests). Almost 190,000 participants had taken a PSA test, while 220,000 subjects had not carried out such a test. Men in Germany have the option of being examined for prostate cancer from the age of 45. This includes scanning the genitals and the associated lymph nodes in the groin. However, a PSA test is not planned. The experts advise that the decision for or against such a test should only be made after talking to a doctor.

PSA tests cannot effectively detect prostate cancer

The researchers said PSA testing in men with no symptoms could indicate diseases that were unlikely to cause harm. On the other hand, the examination can overlook diseases that can be fatal. This highlights the shortcomings of a single PSA test as a way to effectively identify prostate cancer. The study found that after a decade, both groups of participants studied had the same percentage of men who died from prostate cancer (0.29 percent). The PSA test does not identify the subtleties of the disease and can also cause harm to those affected, the doctors say. In the future, more precise options should be developed to save the lives of affected men.

PSA testing cannot save lives

“Our large study highlighted a topic that was heavily discussed. We found that a single PSA test for men without prostate cancer symptoms did not save lives after an average follow-up time of ten years, ”study author Professor Richard Martin of the University of Bristol said in a press release.

PSA testing can cause problems

The results underscore the multitude of problems that the PSA test poses. These include, for example, unnecessary fears and unnecessary treatment by diagnosing cancer of the prostate of men who do not suffer from cancer. In addition, some dangerous types of prostate cancer are not recognized.

Aggressive prostate cancer must be recognized as early as possible

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death among men in the UK, explains Dr. Emma Turner from University of Bristol. Better ways to diagnose aggressive types of prostate cancer that urgently need early treatment must now be found, the expert added. While some types of prostate cancer are aggressive and fatal, others are clinically insignificant and would never result in harm or death if not discovered. Ideally, aggressive prostate carcinomas must be recognized and treated as early as possible, stresses the doctors.

Negative effects of the PSA test

If men are concerned about prostate cancer, they should definitely talk to a doctor about this condition. It is important that general practitioners' discussions with their patients about the PSA test are based on the most up-to-date knowledge and that they correctly represent the risk of serious damage. Although PSA is a straightforward blood test, the subsequent diagnosis and treatment process can have a negative impact on a man's life, such as the risk of infection or sepsis from biopsy. Incontinence can also occur and sexual and intestinal functions can be affected by the treatment. (as)

Author and source information

Video: PSA test questioned as a screen for prostate cancer (June 2022).