Have a Story to Tell? Had a medical error?

This blog is about patient safety, medical malpractice, staying healthy, and preventing future errors. Help & empower someone else, Teach a lesson, Bear witness, Build our community - Email us or call 781-444-5525.

Frustrated with a health problem?

Need an ally in your health crisis? Call 781-444-5525, or learn more.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Prostate cancer decision-making on treatment: Would you cut off your left foot?

Paul VanDevelder, a middle-aged journalist and father, learned five years ago that his PSA (prostate specific antigen) test showed a sudden spike in his PSA level, making him feel panicked. A doctor friend calmed him and had him learn a lot more. Paul learned that for 88% of men with elevated PSAs, the results were a false positive.

The prominent Dartmouth Medical School researcher, Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, explains the odd truth: "The presumption often is that anyone who has had cancer detected has survived because of the test, but that's not true. In fact, and I hate to say this, in screen-detected breast and prostate cancer, survivors are more likely to have been overdiagnosed than actually helped by the test." Indeed, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force formally recommended in October 2011 that doctors stop using the PSA blood test to screen healthy men for prostate cancer.

Paul will get retested in a year, and will think carefully before any prostate surgery. He explains his decision this way to his urologist: "If your doctor told you that an asymptomatic, non-life-threatening tumor was growing on the instep of your left foot, would you cut your foot off?"

Advice to men with elevated PSA levels: Think carefully before deciding on prostate surgery.

Read about another journalist's decision on prostate cancer. Thanks to Paul for sharing his story in today's Los Angeles Times, where the full article can be found.

No comments: