Does that prostate test really do any good?

By Morgan Chesky

Used to predict cancer, PSA screening surpassed physical exams as the primary means of recognizing prostate cancer early on.

ETMC Urologist Dr. Andrew Roberts says PSA testing helped keep patients from jumping to a prostate biopsy, a procedure that is hardly comfortable.

He tells us, "It involves taking needle samples of the prostate, examining them under a microscope and telling the patient whether or not there are cancer cells there or not.

However, a study by the New England Journal of Medicine says otherwise.

The American study involving 77,000 men over 10 years found those who received annual PSA blood tests for prostate cancer did not have a reduced rate of death.

However, a second European study found for every man whose life was saved, 48 received unnecessary treatment, leaving many to wonder if PSA screen is even needed at all.

Dr. Roberts disagrees, saying "I don't think that from a physician's standpoint that there's any question about whether PSA screening detects prostate cancer the question is whether or not it helped men live longer.

But when asked about what it takes to be certain of their prostate diagnosis, Dr. Roberts asks "Is there a way? Is there a 100% way to tell? No there is not a 100% way of telling you.

But even so, he adds that when it comes to prostate cancer, PSA screening still serves its purpose.

"Taking the PSA alone doesn't truly give you the whole risk profile. You have to put PSA in the context of the individual and a patient's history before it really becomes useful."