Should you get a PSA test?

Published: January, 2013

The latest thinking on this controversial screening.

If you're wondering whether to have your PSA tested, you're not alone. Some experts think you should have the test, but others disagree. In May 2012, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued its final report concerning screening for prostate cancer using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. After weighing the best evidence, the expert panel concluded that PSA screening for prostate cancer should not be offered routinely to all men.

When used as a screening tool, the PSA test aims to check seemingly healthy men for hidden cancer at an early stage, when (hypothetically) it may be more curable. To date, the most positive research findings have shown that screening with PSA, at best, prevents about one death from cancer for every 1,000 men who have the test. This means many men are diagnosed and treated for cancers that would not have made them sick or shortened their lives. For such men, the treatment—which can produce side effects—is worse than the disease.

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