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By The Commentators

The Paradox of the PSA

By The Commentators Posted September 19, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer among men and it’s predicted that 33,000 men will die from the disease this year. The PSA or Prostate Specific Antigen blood test is the primary  marker used to detect cancer of the prostate.

During Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, the University of North Carolina Health Care is offering free prostate cancer screenings from 1 p.m. to 6 pm. On Wednesday Sept. 21 and Thursday, Sept. 22.  No appointment is required — just walk in to the Urology Clinic on the second floor of UNC Hospital. Parking is free.

In view of the lethal effects of the disease, why would any man over the age of 45 not take advantage of the free screening?

A big reason is the recent recommendation by the United States Preventive Services Task Force that PSA screening results in overdiagnosis and overtreatment causing serious side effects such as incontinence and erectile dysfunction. According to the task force, the potential benefits from detection, undergoing a biopsy and invasive therapy do not outweigh the serious side effects resulting from the treatment that degrades the quality of life.

The recommendation made by the task force has raised serious concerns by the UNC medical community. Most UNC oncologists will tell you the PSA test has saved thousands of men’s lives since it was first introduced two decades ago.

So men are now faced with the “paradox of the PSA”—to be tested and to be unnecessarily treated for prostate cancer in its early stages, or roll the dice and hope you are not one of the 33,000 men who will die from the aggressive form of the disease.

Perhaps you might want to ask those men whose lives have been saved as a result of screening. They will tell you that the treatment has given them a new lease on life.  In addition, researchers are discovering new drugs and immunotherapy that may soon find a cure for prostate cancer.

If you are a doubting Thomas, attend any one of the prostate cancer support groups sponsored by UNC, Duke or Rex Hospital and listen to the men who count themselves as survivors of prostate cancer. Then you may change your mind about not being screened for prostate cancer.

Listen to Walt Mack’s Commentators piece, as it aired on WCHL:

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