It appears that conventional medicine is finally catching on to what many complementary physicians, including myself, have been saying for decades—that the risks of getting the prostate-specific antigen test (PSA for short) outweigh the benefits. The media have been widely reporting today that a government panel of medical experts are giving the PSA test a grade of “D” and recommending that men no longer get this screening.
Finally…conventional medicine is starting to see the light.
As I said all the way back in the early 90s in my newsletter, Alternatives:
The PSA test was developed in the early 1980s. Later, with endorsements from several celebrities and a major marketing propaganda effort, PSA testing became widespread, even though there was no legitimate research to support the idea that early detection and treatment did anything to save lives. The number of diagnosed cases of prostate cancer skyrocketed in this country.
The PSA test measures a protein that the prostate produces when it’s inflamed. Although the initial research only suggested that higher PSA levels might be connected to prostate cancer, there is an ever-growing amount of research to suggest that higher PSA levels are more closely linked to an enlarged prostate and the associated inflammation than to prostate cancer. This fact, however, hasn’t stopped the unnecessary treatment of hundreds of thousands of men for prostate cancer.
Why is the PSA test so worthless?
Let’s say you have no symptoms but get your yearly PSA test. An elevated PSA level leads to a biopsy showing you have prostate cancer and you are subsequently treated for it. There is roughly one chance in 50 that, between now and 2019 or later, you will be spared death from a cancer that would have killed you. But there’s a 49 in 50 chance that you would have been treated unnecessarily for a cancer that was never any threat to your life.
The treatments being used for prostate cancer involve everything from radiation and administration of hormones to surgical removal of the entire gland. The side effects are far from minor. The long list includes such things as impotency, urinary problems, bowel problems, penile shrinkage, infertility, gynecomastia (breast enlargement), and hot flashes. Any one of these can dramatically lower one’s quality of life. The emotional and social aspects alone take a toll on one’s personal relationships and severely limit activities. And the treatment itself can be fatal.
Most doctors immediately recommend biopsies if PSA levels are elevated, even though false positives are very common. And in the unlikely event that a man actually does have prostate cancer, the biopsy itself can generate problems. First, they’re very much a hit-or-miss situation; small cancers confined to various areas of the prostate are routinely missed. And in the event that a cancer is present, and the biopsy needle does locate it, individuals are facing a second threat. I’ve reported on the various studies showing how removing cancerous tissue with biopsies can lead to the spread of cancerous cells into the bloodstream through needle trails or other means. Prostate cancer that stays confined within the prostate is far less of a threat than one that has metastasized or spread to other areas of the body.
The decision to participate in PSA screenings when you have no prostate symptoms is obviously a personal one. If you have no symptoms and don’t have cancer, I strongly suggest avoiding mass PSA screenings—and whatever you do, immediately get on a preventive/supportive prostate product and stay on it for life.
We’ve been led to believe that all forms of cancer kill and the earlier we can find it and treat it the better the odds of staying alive. That’s not the case with the large majority of prostate cancers. In the case of prostate cancer, the odds of causing serious health problems (possibly even death) from the tests and the early treatment are far greater than the odds of actually dying.
I applaud this realization by the conventional medical community, but I believe the backlash from the public may cause PSA testing to still be routinely used, despite its major drawbacks. But as an educated patient, I’m sure you know better!