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Prostate cancer treatment declines as PSA tests become rarer

Fewer men in Pennsylvania and around the country are being treated for prostate cancer as more and more physicians question the merits of a controversial blood test. Prostate-specific antigen testing has been widely used to detect early-stage prostate cancer in men over the age of 50, but critics of the procedure say that it often signals the presence of cancer when there is none. This leads to unnecessary anxiety and invasive treatments that sometimes do more harm than good according to a University of Michigan researcher who studied the Medicare records of more than 67,000 men diagnosed with the disease.

The research, which was published in the January 2017 edition of the peer-reviewed medical journal Health Affairs, found that the population-based rate of prostate cancer treatment fell by 42 percent between 2007 and 2012. Population-based rates were studied because they reflect changes in both diagnostic and treatment trends. Prostate cancer usually develops very slowly, and a growing number of doctors are saying that it may be advisable for older men diagnosed with the disease to take a wait-and-see approach rather than undergoing debilitating treatments that have been known to cause incontinence and impotence.

Not all doctors share this view, and the American Urological Association still lauds the benefits of PSA testing for men between the ages of 55 and 69. However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has gone from advising against the test for men over the age of 75 in 2008 to recommending against PSA screening in all situations in 2011. The government-backed group of independent doctors say that the benefits of the test do not outweigh its potential dangers.

Much has been written in recent years about doctors ordering unnecessary tests due to concerns over possible medical malpractice lawsuits. While undergoing needless and sometimes unpleasant testing and treatment may not be as potentially harmful as a missed diagnosis, patients who suffer in this way may still be able to pursue civil remedies. When presented with such a scenario, personal injury attorneys could contact specialists such as urologists or oncologists to determine whether or not the treatments administered and tests conducted were really merited.

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