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November 23, 2015

Wising Up on Prostate Tests (Finally)

Summary:

Prostate tests have finally started dropping because of evidence that the risks outweigh the benefits -- but there is a joker in the deck.

Photo Courtesy of digital cat

The number of tests for prostate cancer has dropped, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal by Melinda Beck, but it’s not for the reason that first jumps to mind.

The article says, “The declines follow the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendations against routine testing for prostate cancer, first for men aged 75 and older in 2008, and then for men of all ages in 2012, on the grounds that the benefits likely don’t outweigh the harms.”

I repeat: The benefits of prostate screening likely don’t outweigh the risks.

In short, the diagnosis rate is down because, apparently, more doctors are following new guidelines on prostate screening. At last…at long last.

But there is a joker in the deck. Every wellness program I’ve looked at has not adopted the USPSTF’s prostate screening guidelines. (There may be some that have adopted the new recommendations, but I haven’t seen them.)

It’s worse. I asked a wellness vendor why the company was persisting in promoting prostate over-screening. His reply made my stomach churn. He said that, if his wellness company changed the guidelines, it would have to admit it was wrong in the first place. So it is keeping flawed recommendations to save face. I’d name the vendor, but I agreed to keep what he told me in confidence. Alas.

If you have a wellness program, and the vendor is not following that guideline on prostate screening, you need to give it a big nudge.

P.S. Years ago, I asked my primary care doctor to stop doing PSA tests on me.

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About the Author

Tom Emerick is president of Emerick Consulting and cofounder of EdisonHealth and Thera Advisors.  Emerick’s years with Wal-Mart Stores, Burger King, British Petroleum and American Fidelity Assurance have provided him with an excellent blend of experience and contacts.

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