KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Task Force Panel Will Urge Men To Skip Prostate Screening, Reports Say

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is scheduled to issue this recommendation on Tuesday, but advance press reports indicate the expert panel will urge the federal government to change its current position to recommend that men under age 75 forgo this widely used test. 

The New York Times: U.S. Panel Says No  To Prostate Screening For Healthy Men
Healthy men should no longer receive a P.S.A. blood test to screen for prostate cancer because the test does not save lives over all and often leads to more tests and treatments that needlessly cause pain, impotence and incontinence in many, a key government health panel has decided (Harris, 10/6).

Los Angeles Times: Key Panel Will Urge Men To Skip Prostate Screening, Reports Say
The task force, which sets disease prevention policies for the federal government, is scheduled to issue its new recommendations Tuesday, according to the Santa Monica-based Prostate Cancer Foundation. But the New York Times and a weekly newsletter known as the Cancer Letter reported Thursday that the task force would change its position on the widely used PSA test to recommend that men under age 75 forgo it (Roan and Brown, 10/6).

The Washington Post: Healthy Men Don't Need PSA Testing For Prostate Cancer, Panel Says
Most men should not routinely get a widely used blood test to check for prostate cancer because the exam does not save lives and leads to too much unnecessary anxiety, surgery and complications, a federal task force has concluded. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which triggered a firestorm of controversy in 2009 when it raised questions about routine mammography for breast cancer, will propose downgrading its recommendations for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) for prostate cancer on Tuesday, wading into what is perhaps the most contentious and important issue in men's health (Stein, 10/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Panel Faults Widely Used Prostate-Cancer Test
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force will recommend a "D" rating for prostate specific antigen, or PSA, testing, said a person familiar with the draft document. A "D" rating means "there is moderate or high certainty that the service has no net benefit or that the harms outweigh the benefits," according to the group's website. It also is a recommendation to "discourage use" of test or treatment. The task force is set to make its proposal Tuesday, and then allow for a four-week comment period before issuing a final recommendation (Dooren and Burton, 10/7).

The Associated Press: Panel Advises Against Prostate Cancer Screening
No major medical group recommends routine PSA blood tests to check men for prostate cancer, and now a government panel is saying they do more harm than good and healthy men should no longer receive the tests as part of routine cancer screening. The panel's guidelines had long advised men over 75 to forgo the tests and the new recommendation extends that do-not-screen advice to healthy men of all ages. The recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, being made public on Friday, will not come as a surprise to cancer specialists (Neergaard, 10/7).

Bloomberg: Routine Prostate-Cancer Screening Should End Due To Risks, U.S. Panel Says
Prostate-cancer screening doesn't save enough lives to justify exposing men to risks of death, incontinence and impotence, a U.S. panel will say today in a report that sparked immediate criticism from patient advocates. The draft recommendations from the Health and Human Services Department’s Preventive Services Task Force may prompt insurers to stop paying for tests measuring PSA, a protein associated with prostate cancer at high levels. The panel will give the public four weeks to comment (Peterson and Fay Cortez, 10/6).

CBS: Common Prostate Cancer Test Seen As Unreliable
Almost 241,000 cases of prostate cancer, and almost 34,000 resulting deaths are expected this year. Every year, thousands of Americans receive screening with a blood test called PSA in the hopes of detecting and treating prostate cancer early. But the test has come under fire in recent years, and next week a government task force is expected to make a startling announcement: men should not receive routine PSA screening. The PSA blood test has become more and more controversial over the past decade because it is notoriously poor at identifying cancer. The problem is that PSA can rise from causes other than cancer, such as infections and an enlarged prostate. And even when cancer is found, it may be growing so slowly that it never would have caused a problem (LaPook, 10/6).

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