Tuesday, October 11, 2011

on PSA screening

The US Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF) recently recommended that primary care physicians not screen men for prostate cancer. The question I have is, why were primary care physicians ever screening for prostate cancer with PSA levels in the first place if it hasn't been proven to be effective at reducing mortality?

And what of the contentious debate? I don't think anybody is saying don't screen for prostate cancer. There is an appropriate context in which to do it: a randomized, controlled clinical trial. Outside of research, it is ethically and economically* inappropriate to advocate for treatments that have no proven benefit. Am I missing something?

*I suspect that economics will increasingly play a major role in our clinical decision making. We might as well embrace it now and do the leg work early. We need to stop doing things that don't help so there is money to keep doing the things that do help. Physicians have the ability to trim the excess fat from our health care system with a scalpel. If we wait for the government to do it for us, its going to be with a guillotine.

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