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Yearly Prostate Cancer Tests May Save Lives

Men Who Get Annual PSA Blood Test Are 3 Times Less Likely to Die From the Disease

PSA Screens Linked to Better Prognosis

The researchers studied 1,492 men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent surgery to remove a cancerous prostate gland between 1988 and 2002. Of the total, 841 men had yearly annual PSA screens before their diagnosis.

The previously screened men fared better on almost every score:

  • Their cancers were discovered earlier, when they're more curable, Efstathiou says.
  • They were less likely to have aggressive cancers at the time of diagnosis.
  • The screened men were at lower risk of relapse or dying after their operation. Only 5% of the screened men had their PSA levels double within three months after prostate cancer surgery, compared with 12% of the other men, Efstathiou says. Having PSA levels double in the three months after surgery is an indication that a person will succumb to the disease in the next 10 years, he says.

ASTRO's Lawrence agrees that the so-called PSA doubling time is a "reasonable surrogate for survival." But it's still a surrogate, not the same as following men to see how many die over time, he says.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death among men, and about 30,000 men die from the disease each year.

Cons to Routine Prostate Cancer Screening

If your PSA is elevated, it doesn't mean that you have prostate cancer. Likewise, if your PSA is in the "normal" range, it doesn't guarantee that you are necessarily cancer-free.

Another drawback to routine testing is that abnormal values may lead to pain and risk of complications from unnecessary procedures related to prostate biopsies. There is also the risk of diagnosing and treating patients with very early-stage disease who may not have had any adverse effects from it if it had not been detected.

Despite the controversy surrounding mass routine testing, most medical groups agree that physicians should discuss the pros and cons of screening, diagnosis, and treatment with their patients. Such conversations would allow for more individualized risk assessment and allow for patient input into their care.

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