Dr. Oliver Sartor, other experts discuss pros, cons of prostate cancer screening
African-American men in South Carolina are 50 percent more likely to die of prostate cancer than black men in other states. They are more than twice as likely to die from the very common, very treatable form of cancer as American men of other races.
To help start a conversation on how to combat this statistic, the University of South Carolina is hosting a symposium on Thursday on the “Pros and Cons of Prostate Cancer Screening.” The USC program is free and open to the public. A second symposium will be held at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston on Friday.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed nonskin cancer among men and has one of the lowest mortality rates of all cancers.
“Prostate cancer is an unusual disease because it’s often overtreated as well as undertreated,” said Dr. Oliver Sartor, the principal investigator for pivotal clinical trials for two of the most recently discovered treatments for prostate cancer. “The key is matching the right therapy with the right patient. Patients who have progressive cancers that fight all the usual stuff you’re throwing at them, they’ve got trouble.”
Dr. Richard Ablin, a research professor of immunobiology and pathology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, discovered the prostate specific antigen (PSA) in 1970. By the late 1980s, testing PSA levels became an accepted method of screening for prostate cancer.
But last year, several studies showed no survival advantage for men who are screened aggressively. There was some evidence that early detection caused additional harmful side effects. Ablin wrote in an opinion piece in The New York Times that PSA testing had resulted in some men receiving "unnecessary and debilitating treatment" for prostate cancer.
“Understanding the role of PSA testing in detecting prostate cancer and making informed treatment decisions are among the top challenges in cancer control," said Dr. James Hebert, director of USC's Cancer Prevention and Control Program.
Current guidelines from the American Cancer Society recommend that men make an informed decision with their provider about whether to get screened.
Arnold School of Public Health