The real problem with the PSA

Have you heard? It’s final. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) now officially recommends against routine prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests.

“The USPSTF concludes that there is moderate certainty that the benefits of PSA-based screening for prostate cancer do not outweigh the harms,” reads the final assessment.

If you undergo the treatments that most urologists have you go through, then, yes, that assessment is 100% accurate. I know I would run screaming from their offices if they told me that I needed surgery, radiation, or “seed implants.” That I may spend the rest of my life impotent and having to wear diapers from these procedures to treat what is essentially a “benign” cancer for the most part.

And that–not the PSA test–is the real problem. Our health care system has turned what used to be simply a piece of knowledge about your health into a multi-billion dollar a year business. So for that, I applaud the recommendation.

But here’s why I don’t agree with the panel’s recommendation. Yes, it’s true that by age 80, 80% of men will have prostate cancer–and eventually die of something else entirely. However, there are more aggressive prostate cancers. And the only way to find those is to do routine testing.

The other footnote to consider here–one I see with many of my patients–is the whole “wouldn’t you want to know?” situation. If I had cancer, I would want to know so I could be proactive about it. And I don’t mean surgery, radiation, or the other terror-inducing treatments so many people with prostate cancer have been railroaded into.

There are so many things you can do to strengthen your immune system, and your prostate health–and to keep both functioning optimally (a topic I’ll put on my to-do list for an upcoming issue of my Logical Health Alternatives print newsletter). But without this test, you just won’t know.

The latest recommendations also discourage the use of the PSA test in men over the age of 75. I take offense to this as well. I have so many healthy, active vibrant patients in their 70s and 80s–and beyond. And I can say–beyond a shadow of a doubt–that they would want to know if they had cancer.

The fact that a few doctors and hospitals (and by “a few” I mean thousands) took advantage of this disease does not mean you shouldn’t have the right to know whether or not you have it.

It is downright inappropriate and irresponsible to issue a blanket statement like this when it comes to anything surrounding serious health issues.

With knowledge comes power, and I like my patients to be empowered.