Scottish Daily Mail
Prostate blood test ‘should be scrapped’
A BLOOD test on request for prostate cancer should be scrapped because it is harming men, according to experts.
Men aged over 50 can ask their GP for a blood test that looks for a protein made by the prostate gland called prostatespecific antigen (PSA), which may be higher in men with cancer.
But experts want this approach to be scrapped, as allowing men to request a PSA test risks them having unnecessary treatment such as prostate surgery, which can lead to lifelong incontinence and erectile dysfunction.
That risk is particularly high for men over 70 who are diagnosed with prostate cancer after requesting a PSA test, according to the British Medical Journal article.
Most of these men may actually have been better off remaining undiagnosed and untreated.
They are often old enough to live out their years with the cancer as any tumours would never grow large enough to cause illness.
Instead experts suggest prostate cancer screening for healthy men aged 50 to 70 – similar to mammograms for healthy women which check their risk of breast cancer.
Alternatively, PSA tests should no longer be available on request from a GP but only through a urologist, for men with urinary symptoms.
Professor James Catto, a coauthor of the article from Sheffield University, said: ‘Men who request PSA tests and are diagnosed with prostate cancer tend to be more affluent and engaged in managing their health.
‘We see a surge in demand from men like this looking for PSA tests when celebrities like Bill Turnbull and Stephen Fry talk about prostate cancer, and that leads to overdiagnosis.
‘But those who die from prostate cancer are the men who are least likely to ask for a test, so this system isn’t working.’
Responding to the study, Chiara De Biase, from Prostate Cancer UK, said: ‘It’s clear the current system which requires men to request a PSA blood test for prostate cancer is flawed – but without a national screening programme, it’s the best we have.
‘That’s why Prostate Cancer UK has developed a risk checker to help men make an informed choice as to whether to get tested.’
Professor Nick James, from The Institute of Cancer Research in London, said: ‘There is an urgent need for a more equitable and targeted screening strategy, which could help address existing health disparities.’