When it comes to preventing cancer, screening individuals before the onset of the disease can have many benefits. However, when it comes to prostate cancer, many senior men may be undergoing the prostate-specific antigen or PSA test when it’s not necessary for them to be doing so.
According to a new study from researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, the test may not be necessary for some senior men. Looking at almost 600,00 men who were 70 and older, and who had been treated at various VA hospitals across the country, researchers found a high number of them underwent “inappropriate” PSA testing. This even went for men who were suffering from more than one illness and who were not expected to live past 10 years’ time.
The fact remains that if you are male, the older you become, the more likely it is that you may develop prostate cancer in your lifetime. It’s a stark reality that is unfortunately true. However, not to be too negative, it’s also likely that the older a man becomes, the more likely it is that he will die of an illness other than prostate cancer. Plus, to add to this, for older males, if they do have prostate cancer, the treatment could be worse for them than the disease, as it can cause such side effects as bowel function problems, incontinence, and impotence.
So, if a male is facing a life expectancy that does not exceed 10 years, then there’s no national organization that will recommend that he undergo PSA testing or subsequent treatment for prostate cancer. However, for younger men who do have a life expectancy that is longer than 10 years, the American Cancer Society does indeed recommend that doctors explain the pros and cons of early screening for prostate cancer to them.
According to the researchers of the study, men who have a life expectancy of less than 10 years may be undergoing unnecessary PSA testing that is only leading them to experience undue stress, anxiety, and possible side effects from a treatment that they may not need to undergo. In fact, 56% of the men in the study group underwent PSA testing during the year, yet none of them had any indication or history of prostate cancer.
The amount of screening being done does decline as a patient ages, yet that decline did not necessarily align with worsening health. An added concern is that this unnecessary PSA testing detracts from other, more pressing health concerns that need to be checked out. For example, doctors could be focusing on concerns such as oxygen dependency, congestive heart failure, dialysis, dementia, and other serious health concerns, instead of prostate cancer, which may not need to be treated if a patient’s life expectancy is low.
As the lead researcher of the study, Louise C. Walter, MD, explains, “I’ve seen it happen to my patients. They get very worried and get procedures done to them that leave them incontinent and impotent for a disease that I thought wasn’t going to cause them major problems.”
Speak to your doctor about where you stand when it comes to undergoing PSA testing. If you are facing other, more pressing health concerns, then you may want to rule out subsequent and unnecessary prostate cancer treatment that may lower your quality of living.