SCREENING FOR CANCER -The Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test

I hope that for those people who follow my Facebook page it has become obvious that my intentions have always been to provide cutting edge information on health and nutrition. The topics I choose are supported by the results of my own experience on a Whole Food Plant Based diet during these past 8+ years as well as the latest fact based nutrition research. You the reader may not agree to all the information I include on my posts but I believe that what´s most important is to be well informed. Only then can a person have the best opportunity to make more conscious choices regarding his or her health.
THE DOCTOR – PATIENT RELATIONSHIP
There are basically 2 situations when we get to see a doctor and become a patient. The first one is when we´re feeling ill. In that case we take the initiative and make an appointment. The second scenario is when doctors decide to come looking for you and me and one of the most successful ways is via cancer screening. We may be feeling fantastic and enjoying our lives…our family…our hobbies and not thinking about doctors at all. All of a sudden there´s a campaign…breast screening for women and prostate screening for men. Out of fear, worry or concern, we somehow convince ourselves that participating in one of these screenings is the right thing to do.

Screening for prostate cancer began in the early 1990s with the Prostate Specific Antigen Test (PSA) and it´s popularity has grown exponentially since then as more and more men undergo the test every year. Campaigns have been so effective that about 75 percent of men in the USA have had a routine PSA test.

So, What´s The Evidence?

Dr. Otis Brawley is the Chief Medical and Scientific Officer for the American Cancer Society. He´s responsible for promoting the goals of cancer prevention, early detection, and quality treatment through cancer research and education.

About himself he says, “I have never had a PSA and do not desire one.” He wrote in the journal Cancer (published on behalf of the American Cancer Society), “The benefits of screening and early detection, although theoretically possible, are yet unknown, whereas the risks and harms of screening and resultant treatment are definite.” He continued, “Although it (screening) may truly cure a few men who need to be cured, this benefit may be achieved at the cost of causing a large number of men with prostate cancer to undergo unnecessary treatment and resultant illness.”

In other words, when it comes to screening, Dr. Brawley continues to have many reservations about its value in saving lives, as well its role leading to over-diagnosis and unnecessary treatment. He says that he has known for years about the lack of medical evidence for screening and that despite that, most men with PSAs greater than 4 would receive a biopsy, and if it revealed prostate cancer, they were told that they needed to be treated soon, with younger men usually directed towards surgery and older men towards radiation therapy.
“Hospitals and clinics started business plans to get into community screening that were all about money before we had any evidence that prostate cancer screening could save lives,” he said.
The NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE of the United Kingdom does not recommend the PSA test and always informs it´s patients about the pros and cons:
PROS:
• It may reassure you if the test result is normal
• It can find early signs of cancer, meaning you can get
treated early
• PSA testing may reduce your risk of dying if you do
have cancer
CONS:
• It can miss cancer and provide false reassurance
• It may lead to unnecessary worry and medical tests
when there’s no cancer
• It cannot tell the difference between slow-growing and
fast-growing cancers
• It may make you worry by finding a slow-growing cancer
that may never cause any problems

According to a 2014 Consumer Reports, developed in cooperation with the AMERICAN ACADEMY OF FAMILY PHYSICIANS:

Up to 25% of men with high PSAs may have prostate cancer, depending on age and PSA level. But most of these cancers do not cause problems. It is common for older men to have some cancer cells in their prostate glands. These cancers are usually slow to grow. They are not likely to spread beyond the prostate. They usually don’t cause symptoms, or death. Studies show that routine PSA tests of 1,000 men ages 55 to 69 prevent only one prostate cancer death.
If your PSA is not normal, you will probably have a biopsy. The doctor puts a needle through the wall of the rectum and into the prostate to take a few samples. Biopsies can be painful and cause bleeding. Men can get serious infections from biopsies, and they may need hospital care.
Surgery or radiation are the usual treatments for prostate cancer. They can do more harm than good. Treatment can cause serious complications, such as heart attacks, blood clots in the legs or lungs, or even death. In addition, 40 men out of 1,000 will become impotent or incontinent from treatment.

Even the MAYO CLINIC states:

Neither the PSA test nor the digital rectal exam provides enough information for your doctor to diagnose prostate cancer. Abnormal results in these tests may lead your doctor to recommend a prostate biopsy.

So What Are We Supposed to Do?

Even with all the controversy and conflicting evidence…the screening campaigns continue for breast and prostate cancer. These campaigns never inform us of the pros and cons of the tests or give us sufficient information so that we can make the right decision or at least have a discussion with our doctor or health care professional.
From my perspective, the best action is to be pro-active so that we don´t have to worry or depend on cancer screenings that can have so much downside. The right path to health is to make the best lifestyle choices in order to prevent these cancers…not to wait until we´re struggling to survive.

Of all Possible Lifestyle Choices, why a Whole Food, Plant Based diet?

According to Dr. Michael Greger, author of the NY Times Best Seller, “How Not to Die.”

“If you look around the world, there are huge differences in prostate cancer rates. In the USA the rates are up to a hundred times higher than some places in Asia, for example. And, it’s not just genetic; within one generation of coming to the U.S., cancer rates shoot up, and then their grandkids end up with the same rates as the population they now live in. A whole range of “lifestyle factors” have been looked at, but diet appears to have the greatest influence. Specifically, “the consumption of meat and dairy…appears to increase risk, and consumption of plant…foods appears to decrease risk.”

Coming up Next: Can we Prevent, Slow Down, Stop, and even Reverse Breast and Prostate Cancer?

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