Is prostate cancer generally becoming more aggressive and fast growing? Or have changes in prostate cancer screening practices allowed more early stage cancers to be missed, resulting in later diagnoses of more aggressive cancers? NBC Nightly News recently showcased these questions, raised in a recent study by Dr. Edward Schaeffer, chair of urology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Medicine. These concerns are also important to advance the patient care provided by Chicago Prostate Cancer Center (CPCC).
Doubling of aggressive prostate cancer
Dr. Schaeffer’s study demonstrated that since 2004, “cases of metastatic prostate cancer — the type that has started to spread in the body — nearly doubled in men aged 55 to 69”. In 2012, the U.S. Preventative Task Force (USTPF) issued new prostate cancer screening guidelines, which suggested that the PSA test was leading to unnecessary biopsy procedures and treatment of insignificant cancers. As a result, many doctors stopped offering their patients routine screening with a PSA test and digital rectal exam (DRE).
Changes in screening guidelines
The investigators admit that recent changes in prostate cancer screening guidelines may not be totally to blame for this increase, partly since the guidelines were issued eight years into the study’s data collection time frame. At CPCC, we saw the tide shift toward less screening when the 2012 USPTF pronouncement was made. Unfortunately, over the last four years we have also seen an increasing number of men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.
Screening even more important
If future research demonstrates prostate cancer is becoming more aggressive across the board, CPCC suggests early screening with both PSA and DRE will be more critical than ever. Detecting early stage prostate cancer, when its highly treatable, will save more lives. Read more about the importance of prostate cancer screening or register for free screening supported in part by Prostate Cancer Foundation of Chicago.