In recent years, various task forces or panels have come out strongly against using the PSA blood test as a screening tool. The latest was the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (CTFPHC) which, on Monday October 27th, 2014 stated that this test should not be used, as it does not prove to save lives!
Since the CTFPHC released their list of “guidelines”, the Canadian Urological Association (CUA), several Canadian highly-regarded urologists and radiation oncologists, who actually work with prostate cancer patients, and Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada (PCC), have been exceptionally vocal refuting these guidelines, saying that if men in Canada follow them, the number of deaths from prostate cancer across Canada in the next 5-10 years will increase significantly! (To see PCC’s response, click on the link at the bottom of this post.)
The Board of Directors of Prostate Cancer Canada – Toronto (PCCN-Toronto) supports the CUA, the prostate cancer specialists, and the president of PCC. Our support group has always advocated for both the PSA blood test and the digital rectal examination (DRE) as two extremely important screening tools for prostate cancer. We have consistently been telling men how important it is to get a “baseline number” in their medical file, so their family doctors have a comparative measure with subsequent PSA tests. This allows men to be properly monitored and any changes to be duly noted.
Our current policy is to advise men without any family history to start getting PSA tests at age 40. Those men with a family history of prostate cancer should start even earlier. African Canadian men, because they are at higher risk for prostate cancer, should also start at age 40 or sooner without any family history, and at age 30 with a history of prostate cancer in their families.
Those of us who have been treated for prostate cancer feel strongly that the PSA blood test saved our lives.
Is the PSA test controversial? Yes, it is.
Does this test sometimes yield “false positives”? Yes, it does.
And does this simple blood test sometimes lead men to have what some refer to as unnecessary prostate biopsies? Yes, that happens occasionally.
However, does any of this outweigh the importance of using the blood test as an important screening tool? No, it does not!
Many of our survivors volunteer at three major Toronto hospitals, where we regularly meet newly-diagnosed men who were never properly screened when they should have been. This is either because they made that decision on their own, or because of their family physician’s direction. The sad part is that many of these men do not receive an early-stage diagnosis, but instead are diagnosed with advanced or late-stage prostate cancer. And the main reason for this is that they weren’t screened earlier with the PSA blood test. Had they been, many of them might still have been diagnosed with this disease, but the chances are that their diagnoses could or would have been much earlier, and much more treatable and curable.
The bottom line is that until a more accurate test is found, we fully support the PSA blood test as an important screening tool for prostate cancer. We encourage men to get their baseline number earlier rather than later, and to follow up with regular blood tests. Doing this can save your life!
If you have any questions, please call our hotline at 416-932-8820.
Prostate Cancer Canada Network-Toronto
And it’s also about quality of life. Click here to see Dr. S. Larry Goldenberg’s (chair of the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, a professor of urologic sciences at the University of British Columbia, and the author of An Intelligent Patient Guide to Prostate Cancer) response.