Prostate cancer screening

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© 2015 American Academy of Family Physicians. Among American men, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death. Although prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing has been used to screen for prostate cancer for more than 25 years, the test has low sensitivity and specificity, and there is no clear evidence for determining what threshold warrants prostate biopsy. Only one of five randomized controlled trials of PSA screening showed an effect on prostate cancer–specific mortality, and the absolute reduction in deaths from prostate cancer was one per 781 men screened after 13 years of follow-up. None of the trials showed benefit in all-cause mortality, and screening increased prostate cancer diagnoses by about 60%. Harms of screening include adverse effects from prostate biopsy, overdiagnosis and overtreatment, and anxiety. One-half of screen-detected prostate cancers will not cause symptoms in the patient’s lifetime, and 80% to 85% of men who choose observation will not die from prostate cancer within 15 years. Adverse effects of radical prostatectomy include perioperative complications, erectile dysfunction, and urinary incontinence. Radiation therapy can cause acute toxicity leading to urinary urgency, dysuria, diarrhea, and rectal pain; late toxicity includes erectile dysfunction, rectal bleeding, and urethral stricture. Despite variations across guidelines, no organization recommends routine PSA testing, and all endorse some form of shared decision-making before testing. If screening is performed, it should generally be discontinued at 70 years of age.

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