Protect Against Prostate Cancer
The Prostate Problem
If you’re a man who has ever gotten a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening, you know it’s a “must-have” test for guys over 50. But there’s a debate that’s been raging for years over the test’s ability to save lives. And now, two opposing studies have muddied the waters on the value of this routine test even more – leaving American men wondering if the test is really worth taking.
While an elevated PSA reading may indicate a life-threatening cancer, it may also detect slower-moving tumors that would never cause death. Because doctors can’t yet tell the difference, treatments are often ordered that can impair men’s quality of life – causing many experts to worry that the PSA test is overused.
The Problem With PSA
If you’ve never had a PSA screening, here’s the 411 on this popular prostate test. The prostate produces a substance known as Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). A small amount of this antigen continuously leaks into the bloodstream, and levels can be easily measured. Since high levels of PSA can be associated with prostate cancer, most doctors rely on this test, combined with a rectal exam, to screen their patients for prostate cancer.
Routinely measuring PSA levels as a way to spot potential prostate cancer began in the early 1990s and quickly gained status as the “gold standard.” The logic behind the simple blood test was that the earlier you could spot prostate cancer, the better the chance of survival. It’s a belief most doctors still subscribe to.
On the other hand, the American Cancer Society does not currently recommend routine PSA screening for all men. Here’s why: Raised PSA levels simply indicate there’s a problem with your prostate. While that could mean cancer, it could also be a sign of a prostate infection or an enlarged prostate. Or it could mean nothing at all since PSA levels also go up after some medical procedures, particularly after a digital rectal exam. Smoking, your diet, weight changes, and the use of calcium supplements an also cause unreliable PSA readings.
Unfortunately, too many doctors automatically schedule a biopsy based on just one PSA screening. This is totally unnecessary. PSA levels, like your blood pressure, can go up and down based on a variety of factors. Scientists at the University of Texas found that men who are overweight or obese typically have lower PSA counts – even if cancer is present. Bladder infections can also upset PSA levels. Certain medications, like the hair loss drug finasteride, can lower your PSA level, while stress can raise it. And something as simple as changing your diet can impact your PSA.prostate protocol reviews 2021Unfortunately, too many doctors automatically schedule a biopsy based on just one PSA screening. This is totally unnecessary. PSA levels, like your blood pressure, can go up and down based on a variety of factors. Scientists at the University of Texas found that men who are overweight or obese typically have lower PSA counts – even if cancer is present. Bladder infections can also upset PSA levels. Certain medications, like the hair loss drug finasteride, can lower your PSA level, while stress can raise it. And something as simple as changing your diet can impact your PSA.
To get the whole picture, several PSA screenings should be done before more radical measures are taken. And that’s where these two studies come in.
While both studies appeared in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, that’s where the similarities end. The first study, which followed more than 76,000 American men for seven years, found that getting regular PSA screenings did not reduce prostate cancer deaths. But the other study, which included 182,000 European men, found that getting tested reduced the risk of dying from prostate cancer by 20 percent.
So which study is right? Who knows? What I can say is this: The never-ending debate over the virtues of PSA screenings is enough to make any man crazy! But there are some guidelines that can help you decide if you really need to get tested. The most important is family history. You have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer if the men in your family had the disease, especially if they were diagnosed before they turned 55. If your father or brother developed prostate cancer, your risk is doubled.