For the first time in almost a decade, the American Cancer Society has revamped its recommendations for prostate cancer screening. The new advice puts a sharper focus on the risks of prostate cancer screening, emphasizing that annual testing can lead to unnecessary biopsies and treatments that do more harm than good.
The cancer society has not recommended routine screening for most men since the mid-1990s, and that is not changing. But its new advice goes further to warn of the limitations of the PSA blood test that millions of men get now. It also says digital rectal exams should be an option rather than part of a standard screening.
While the cancer society does not recommend screening for anyone — even men at risk — it does offer suggested intervals for screening if men choose to be tested.
Annual screening is now recommended for men with a PSA level of 2.5 or higher. But it says men whose PSA is under that threshold should only be screened every two years. And those with PSA levels over 4 could have an annual exam. The guidelines urge doctors to discuss the pros and cons of testing with their patients, including the likelihood of false test results and the side effects of treatment like impotence and incontinence.
The Canadian Cancer Society says if you are a man in good health over the age of 50, and have no symptoms of prostate cancer, you and your family doctor should discuss the potential benefits and harms of PSA testing for prostate cancer.