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Clearing up confusion over PSA testing

June 22, 2012 1:46:25 PM PDT
For years we told men to get the PSA test, but the guidelines have now changed telling men not to get screened. It's already creating confusion.

The new message is talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of PSA testing.

Robert Wallen is a retired firefighter and a prostate cancer survivor diagnosed last year by a PSA blood test.

"Without routine testing, I would not have found out that I had prostate cancer," he said.

But last month a government panel recommended against the PSA test, saying it's not necessary for men regardless of age.

The new guidelines say the potential harms of testing outweigh the benefits. It may lead to unnecessary procedures and complications like incontinence or impotence.

"It is not a perfect test and everyone agrees on that," Dr. David Shin said.

Dr. Shin is a urologist at Hackensack University Medical Center. He says despite the new guidelines, he still tests most men over the age of 40.

"It should be done in the context of a discussion with the physician and the patient. We go over it of course, the pros and cons of the testing and looking at other factors," he said.

The factors that increase the risk of prostate cancer include family history, being African American and increased age.

But prostate cancer is often slow growing, so if a man's life expectancy is less than 10 years, Dr. Shin says PSA testing may not be worth it. The key is to talk to your doctor about your risk factors.

It's not always easy to get men to the doctor, but if sports are involved maybe they'll listen. That's why the New York Giants are trying to help.

"I think that is the biggest drawback to all men; they're afraid of the unknown and my answer is, don't be afraid of it," former quarterback Phil Simms said.

To help eliminate that fear, Simms and the team will host a free prostate education event this weekend at Timex Performance Center in the Meadowlands.

"To get a chance to give some information to people to make them lead a better life and to feel better. I think it's awesome," Simms said.

The prostate education event is Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. You can get information, meet with doctors, and meet some of the New York Giants.

They are offering free PSA testing there, but again, you should talk to a doctor to make sure you understand the test first. That's the official recommendation.

For more information about the Prostate Education Event, please visit http://www.hackensackuhn.org/timexcnt.html For more information about the risks and benefits of PSA testing:
http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/prostatecancerscreening/prostatecancerinfo.pdf

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