PSA screening for prostate cancer: Why saying no is a high-value health care choice

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Enthusiasm for cancer screening and treatment of screen-detected cancer has led to widespread prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening, a marked increase in prostate cancer incidence, and high use of surgical, radiation, and androgen deprivation treatment for screen-detected disease. This has occurred in advance of a full understanding of the clinical and financial tradeoffs. Although questions remain whether lifetime benefits outweigh harms and costs, data indicate that this balance is not favorable through at least 15 years. This article outlines a conceptual framework for determining the value of screening strategies according to screening and treatment intensity. We describe 4 main cancer screening goals and examine whether PSA screening and treatment achieve these goals and thus provide high-value care. Available evidence demonstrates that PSA screening provides at best a small reduction in prostate cancer mortality, and no reduction in all-cause mortality. High-intensity PSA screening and treatment currently practiced in the United States result in substantial harms and large health care expenditures-it is low-value care. The health importance of prostate cancer and the financial costs to patients and society require improved detection and treatment strategies that produce greater value to patients. We propose lower-intensity, higher-value options. However, until evidence supports a higher-value alternative to current PSA screening strategies, physicians should recommend against PSA screening, policymakers should encourage reduced screening, and most men should say no to the PSA test.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1566-1574
Number of pages9
JournalJNCCN Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


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