You may recall that late in 2011, the United States Preventive Services Task Force created significant controversy by recommending against routine PSA (prostate specific antigen) testing. (A blog post from November 2011 covers the topic if you would like to review the recommendations.) The recommendations against use of routine PSA for prostate cancer screening is thought to avoid unnecessary biopsies as well as prevent urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction related to procedures for prostate cancer. In this year's January edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine we have updated information that addresses the implications of screening among different age groups.
Authors from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington in Seattle ran computer models to determine risk reduction and mortality levels in populations of men. The bottom line is this: in men who are at low risk of developing prostate cancer, reducing the frequency of PSA testing significantly reduces the potential for harm from interventions, while not significantly increasing the risk of death. For example, in men ages 50-74 (who have low PSA levels) screening every other year versus annually increases lifetime death risk by 0.1% The number of PSA tests would be reduced by 59% and false positive tests (blamed for significant amount of pain and unnecessary treatments) would be reduced by nearly half. Click here for the journal abstract.
Even if you are not working specifically with male pelvic rehab patients, you are likely working with male patients who are at an age when screening for prostate disease is recommended. How else can we promote prostate health with our patients? The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has found that eating dark green and cruciferous vegetables, drinking moderate amounts of red wine, and avoiding deep fried foods, smoking, and obesity can improve a man's chances of avoiding prostate cancer. As with many cancers, family history plays a role. Screening male patients, especially those who are in their 5th decade of life, is important. The American Cancer Society estimates more than 238,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed this year in the US. Be alert to male patients who have pain in the low back or pelvis, as these areas are typical sites of metastasis. The National Cancer Institute has an excellent summary of prostate cancer risks, general information, and images related to anatomy that you might find useful for your own knowledge or for patient education.