PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — An influential government advisory panel is dropping its opposition of routine prostate cancer screenings for men.
Larry Blumberg’s life changed when his doctor diagnosed prostate cancer last year.
“It was very upsetting, but he also said we are in time. I’m not sure if we could have been in time if we had done this a year or two from now,” said Blumberg.
The 69-year-old’s cancer was detected after he opted to have a PSA blood test, even though he had no symptoms.
The screening was not recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
Now based on the latest research, the group has reversed its recommendation, and now says men 55 to 69 should have a conversation with their doctor and make a decision for themselves.
“Men can reduce their chance of dying of prostate cancer and reduce their chance of having cancer that spreads throughout their body,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins Domingo, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Chair. “These are really important benefits, but they occur in a small number of men.”
The concern has been that PSA testing results in over treating cancers, which can lead to serious issues like impotence and incontinence.
“It’s not the test that’s the problem, it’s the reaction to the test, both on the part of the patient and provider,” said Dr. Neha Vapiwala at Penn Medicine
Vapiwala says advances in detection and closely monitoring low-risk cancers are helping men avoid drastic treatment.
“As a patient, you don’t want to panic about a screening test,” said Vapiwala. “As a provider, you don’t want to jump to immediate recommendations for treatment.”
Larry had his prostate removed and has had some side effects, but says they are getting better.
“The side effects are nothing compared to the fact that I’m going to live a long life, enjoy my kids and my grandchildren,” said Blumberg.
But not everyone with prostate cancer benefits from treatment. The task force says many men can live with prostate cancer without it causing serious illness or death.