Over 75? Skip the Prostate Cancer Screening, Say Experts

August 06, 2008 03:02 PM
by Cara McDonough
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says that the disease is “overdiagnosed” in older men whose life expectancy is unaffected.

No Benefit to Late-Life Screenings

Prostate cancer screening has led to high detection levels, with more than 218,000 men in the United States diagnosed with the disease last year.

But the disease normally progresses very slowly. Past task forces have reported that there is no advantage in screening men who have less than 10 years to live, because aggressive prostate cancer treatment can greatly reduce a patient’s quality of life, often leading to complications like impotence and incontinence.

Because it is difficult to determine life expectancy, the recommendation has been informal until now, but “the new guidelines take a more definitive stand, stating that the age of 75 is clearly the point at which screening is no longer appropriate,” the International Herald Tribune reports.
The new recommendations may be confusing to some men who have always been advised to undergo regular screening. U.S. News & World Report offers scenarios for what nine types of men of different races and ethnicities and with varying prostate cancer risks should do about screening in light of the new recommendation.

A similarly confusing situation occurred in July, when experts said that the commonly recommended breast self-exam may do more harm than good, even though women have been advised for years to conduct the exams regularly.

Ned Calonge, chairman of the task force, said it is also important that the new prostate cancer guidelines are not viewed as “giving up” on older men. The recommendations won’t prevent older men from seeking testing if they desire it.

However, “When you look at screening, you have a chance the screening will help you live longer or better, and you have the chance that screening detection and treatment will harm you,” he said. “At age 75, the chances are great that you’ll have negative impacts from the screening.

Reference: Prostate cancer


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines