According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Heathcare Research and Quality website, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (“Task Force”) is an independent group of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine that works to improve the health of all Americans by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services such as screenings, counseling services, or preventive medications.
The Task Force consists of 16 volunteer members who come from the fields of preventive medicine and primary care, including internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, behavioral health, obstetrics/gynecology, and nursing, and most are practicing clinicians.
New Prostate Cancer Screening Recommendations
In announcing its new recommendations regarding prostate cancer screenings on May 22, 2012, the Task Force’s Co-Chair stated:
“Prostate cancer is a serious health problem that affects thousands of men and their families. But before getting a PSA test, all men deserve to know what the science tells us about PSA screening: there is a very small potential benefit and significant potential harms. We encourage clinicians to consider this evidence and not screen their patients with a PSA test unless the individual being screened understands what is known about PSA screening and makes the personal decision that even a small possibility of benefit outweighs the known risk of harms.”
The Task Force gave the current prostate cancer screening recommendations its grade of “D Recommendation,” which means the Task Force ” …recommends against the service. There is moderate or high certainty that the service has no net benefit or that the harms outweigh the benefits” and therefore the Task Force recommends that health care providers “Discourage the use of this service.”
The Task Force’s official new prostate screening recommendations are as follows:
In October 2011, the USPSTF posted for public comment the draft of its recommendation regarding prostate cancer screening. Since then, Task Force members have read the many comments received and reviewed the most up-to-date evidence.
Based on this work, the Task Force concludes that many men are harmed as a result of prostate cancer screening and few, if any, benefit.
A better test and better treatment options are needed. Until these are available, the USPSTF has recommended against screening for prostate cancer.
The members of the USPSTF face the same concerns and fears about health challenges as other people. This decision was reached only after extensive consideration and thoughtful debate. It is based on science and rooted in the knowledge that while everyone wants to help prevent deaths from prostate cancer, current methods of PSA screening and treatment of screen-detected cancer are not the answer.
The Task Force’s new prostate screening recommendations will surely be subject to much debate as well as condemnation from certain health care practitioners, just like the Task Force’s recommendations (changes) regarding mammograms from a few years ago that sparked a lively discussion and the promise of stead-fast refusal to change the mammography protocols among many doctors who ordered mammograms for their patients (see our Blog entitled “Mammograms: How Often?” for July 22, 2011, for a further discussion of the Task Force’s mammogram recommendations and ACOG’s (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) response to the recommendations).
So, what should you do regarding prostate cancer screening? You should sit down with your health care providers and thoroughly discuss your medical history and medical condition with them and ask them for their recommendations for you regarding prostate cancer screening along with their reasons behind their recommendations. When in doubt, seek a second opinion from another competent health care provider who only has your best interests in mind.
If you have been injured as a result of medical negligence (often referred to as medical malpractice), you should promptly consult with a medical malpractice attorney regarding your possible medical malpractice claim.
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