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February 08, 2016

Doctors split over prostate cancer screening

Urologists more likely to screen for prostate cancer than primary care doctors

The medical community appears to be split over routine screenings for prostate cancer, according to a Reuters report.

U.S. guidelines started advising against routine tests in 2012, citing concerns that these tests often caught benign tumors and lead to unnecessary treatments. But a study published online Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that urologists are more reluctant to follow the guidelines than primary care doctors.

A year after the new guidelines were made public by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, testing rates for prostate cancer in men ages 50 to 74 dropped from 37 percent to 16 percent.

However, urologists were still testing 35 percent of men in that age group for prostate cancer.

The study looked specifically at orders for "PSA tests," so called because they screen for a cancer marker called the prostate-specific antigen.

There's significant debate in the scientific community over whether regular screenings help or harm most patients.

"I do feel strongly that some men are more at risk of prostate cancer and I’m concerned about what will happen to these men," study author Quoc-Dien Trinh, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told Reuters. 

However, men who do not have risk factors, like a family history of prostate cancer, may not need regular tests. It's something that men should discuss with their doctors.

“Regardless of what specialist a patient approaches to discuss PSA screening, patients must understand that decisions regarding screening are exceedingly personal ... what is the right decision for one person may not be right for another,” Alexander Kutikov, a prostate cancer specialist at Philadelphia's Fox Chase Cancer Center, told Reuters. Dr. Kutikov was not involved in the study.

Read the full story here.

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