In news that might come as a relief to those men approaching prostate-cancer-screening age, a new study finds that having your doctor stick his finger you-know-where is unlikely to reduce your risk of dying from prostate cancer.
The study, led by University of Florida urologist Philipp Dahm, reviewed data on 387,286 men enrolled in six clinical trials. The chances of survival for the men who either had a rectal exam or a PSA test (a blood test for prostate-specific antigens) weren’t significantly better than for the men who were not screened.
Routine screening does increase the likelihood of a prostate cancer diagnosis. For every thousand men screened, the study finds, twenty more cancers are diagnosed than in similar men who are not screened.
But Dahm warned that early diagnosis of tumors often leads to unnecessary surgeries—procedures that can leave men with incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and other problems.
Gerald L. Andriole, chief of urologic surgery at Washington University told WebMD, “When we do routine mass screening for prostate cancer there are winners and losers,” he said. “Some men clearly benefit from early detection and early treatment. But other men are losers. They are diagnosed with a cancer, undergo unnecessary treatment and have side effects, and they go through all pain and anxiety associated with having cancer.”
Does this mean you can forgo your annual anal probe? Dahm says that’s an important decision every man should discuss with his doctor.
Each year, more than 30,000 men in the United States die from prostate cancer (out of 215,000 cases); it is the most deadly cancer in men after skin cancer.