Unreliable Prostate Test Costs Billions
Article Revised: March 27, 2019
The person who discovered the test used to screen 30 million American men for prostate cancer, the prostate-specific-antigen or PSA test, says the test is a hugely expensive healthcare disaster. In the New York Times Op-ed piece The Great Prostate Mistake Professor Richard J. Ablin states
“I discovered P.S.A. in 1970. As Congress searches for ways to cut costs in our health care system, a significant savings could come from changing the way the antigen is used to screen for prostate cancer.”
Americans spend an enormous amount testing for prostate cancer. The annual bill for P.S.A. screening is at least $3 billion, with much of it paid for by Medicare and the Veterans Administration. Meanwhile, the test is hardly more effective than a coin toss. P.S.A. testing can’t detect prostate cancer and, more important, it can’t distinguish between the two types of prostate cancer — the one that will kill you and the one that won’t.Instead, the test simply reveals how much of the prostate antigen a man has in his blood. Infections, over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen, and benign swelling of the prostate can all elevate a man’s P.S.A. levels, but none of these factors signals cancer. Men with low readings might still harbor dangerous cancers, while those with high readings might be completely healthy.
So why is it still used? According to Ablin it’s because drug companies continue peddling the tests and advocacy groups push “prostate cancer awareness” by encouraging men to get screened. Shamefully, the American Urological Association still recommends screening, while the National Cancer Institute is vague on the issue, stating that the evidence is unclear.
The bottom line?
“Testing should absolutely not be deployed to screen the entire population of men over the age of 50, the outcome pushed by those who stand to profit.”
This according to the man who discovered the test over four decades ago.
Personally, I think the logic used in Professor Ablin’s op-ed piece should be used to assess the value of all recommendations used to test and medicate Americans into bankruptcy without improving health in the slightest.
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