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The Usefulness of Prostate Cancer Screening: Making Informed Patient Decisions

PHILADELPHIA (September 1, 2009) –The publication of two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year show that the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test does not significantly reduce the risk of prostate cancer deaths. Despite this news, doctors say the test remains a valuable tool for men, especially for those at high risk of prostate cancer.

The PSA test measures the amount of a protein, called prostate-specific antigen, in the blood. A higher level of PSA may be a sign of prostate cancer. But with news of the findings from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Screening Trial, led by the National Cancer Institute, and the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC) trial, there has been concern and confusion over the usefulness of the exam. Does this mean men should not get screened for prostate cancer? Should men rethink their treatment choices if they have the disease?

“Education and a thorough exploration of options leads to informed decisions,” says Veda Giri, MD, director of Prostate Cancer Risk Assessment at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

“PSA testing continues to be a useful tool,” says Giri. “Whether to have the test is a personal decision that a man should discuss and decide with his doctor given his age, individual risk level, and other factors. That’s why it’s so important for patients and their physicians to have an open dialogue about screening.”

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer (excluding skin cancer) among American men. Certain men have an increased risk of developing the disease because they have a family history of prostate cancer or are African American. In addition, risk increases with age for all men.

“These studies give us more to think about when making decisions about screening, as well as decisions about treatment and quality-of-life that come along with a prostate cancer diagnosis,” adds Giri.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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