PSA is an important test

The European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC) reported a 20% reduction in prostate cancer deaths and 41% reduction in metastatic disease at diagnosis at 9 years after treatment for prostate cancer. But the ERSPC also said that 48 men would have to be screened and treated to prevent one death from prostate cancer, a pretty high number. The problem with this is that prostate cancer is very slow in action. It can take twenty or thirty years to run its full course. With longer followup, that number should drop.

In the Goteborg Prostate Cancer Screening Trial, following a group of patients in the ERSPC out to 14 years, the number needed to screen dropped to 12, a very reasonable number. It is thought that as the study is carried out on an even longer basis, the number needed to screen to prevent a prostate cancer death should fall much lower.

I will be getting my PSA checked annually, and I encourage others to do so as well. It is far better to watch a problem than to ignore that it might exist.

For more complete information please refer to the paper “What is the True Number Needed to Screen and Treat to Save a Life with Prostate-Specific Antigen Testing? Journal of Clincal Oncology, February 1, 2011. Stacy Loeb, MD; Edward F. Vonesh, MD; E. Jeffrey Metter, MD; H. Ballentine Carter, MD; Peter H. Gann, MD; and William J. Catalona, MD”

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