A personal statement on PSA testing, from the editor of Harvard Men's Health Watch

Since the dawn of the PSA era some 20 years ago, Dr. Harvey Simon has written thousands of words about PSA testing in the Harvard Men's Health Watch, in The Harvard Medical School Guide to Men's Health, and numerous newspaper, magazine, and Internet articles.

In the March issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch, Dr. Simon presents the second of a two-part series examining the benefits and risks of PSA screening for prostate cancer. Because he believes every man should understand why testing is controversial and then decide for himself, Dr. Simon discusses his own decision:

I have counseled thousands of patients and their wives about PSA screening. Although my advice has evolved as scientific evidence has accumulated over the years, my bottom line has remained the same: once a man fully understands the pros and cons of PSA testing, it's up to him to decide if the test is right for him. Still, faced with a complex decision, many men and their wives (as well as my students, friends, and relatives) have asked a perceptive question: "What do you decide for yourself, Dr. Simon?"

It's a good question, not only because I've considered the issue in detail and discussed it with many experts, but because I'm a man as well as a doctor — and I have a prostate, a happy marriage, fine health, and a zest for life. And I have another reason to take the decision personally, since my father was diagnosed with locally extensive, inoperable prostate cancer at age 52.

I've discussed PSA screening with my personal physician each year since the test became available. My choice has not changed over the years, but it has become easier as the data have come in (and I have grown older): I have chosen not to be screened for prostate cancer.

I'll continue to revisit the question, both personally and professionally, and I urge you to do the same. In my view, there is no wrong answer for healthy men in mid-life; as long as a man is fully informed about the pros and cons of testing, the decision is up to him.

Read the full-length article: "The PSA test: what's right for you?"

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