Changes in Cancer Screening Recommendations May Save Money, But Are They Saving Your Health? February 12, 2014
Last month, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force changed its recommendation of when a woman should have a mammogram. Originally recommending to start at the age of 40 and then continued every year after, it is now advised that women start at age 50 and continue with exams every other year. This change is one that has been mirrored in recent recommendations for prostate cancer, and has raised ethical questions over the apparent plan to save money with fewer tests.
It is estimated that it costs $10 billion per year for women to have mammograms. Reducing the frequency of mammograms to every other year, will save $7 billion dollars. Knowing the statistics, New York robotic surgeon and prostate cancer expert. David Samadi, MD, asks the question, “What is the price of saving a life?”
The impact of breast cancer on the the female population is almost parallel to the impact of prostate cancer on the male population. Each year 230,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and 230,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Along with that, 30,000 men die from prostate cancer and 30,000 women die from breast cancer.
The intent to save money with these new regulations is one that has also been seen with prostate cancer. Less frequent PSA tests are being recommended for men, but at what cost? Dr. Samadi advises men to “know their PSA levels.” Prostate cancer is known as the silent killer, because there are very few symptoms, thus emphasizing the importance of pre-cancer screenings, such as the PSA test and digital rectal exams. Without screening on a regular basis, cancer may not be detected as early as possible, leading to a more difficult recovery and a higher mortality rate.
If caught in its early stages, the prostate can be removed. If removed through the minimally invasive procedure of robotic prostatectomy, there is less trauma to the area so that further examination can be done, ensuring that the cancer cells were isolated. If the cells were not, then radiation therapy can be started as a “’Plan B” and the patient will have a greater chance of overcoming this cancer. The robotic prostate surgery also has fewer side effects, such as a lower rate of incontinence and sexual dysfunction.
So what to do now? Dr. Samadi says, “While these may be recommendations for the country, it is up to you to know your PSA levels, be your best doctor, stay on top of things.”
If you want to stand a chance against cancer, get your PSA level checked regularly. Early detection could save your life.