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J Fam Pract. 1995 Sep;41(3):270-8.

Prostate-specific antigen testing to screen for prostate cancer.

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Division of Clinical Enhancement and Development, Group Health Northwest, Spokane, Washington 99204-0204, USA.


Prostate cancer is a common cause of cancer-related morbidity and mortality in men. Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) measurement to screen for prostate cancer has been promoted as a way to reduce morbidity and mortality from prostate cancer. This paper examines the usefulness of PSA screening for asymptomatic prostate cancer, focusing on outcomes for all patients screened. The sensitivity and specificity of PSA testing for prostate cancer are low and have not been studied properly in asymptomatic men being screened for prostate cancer. PSA screening detects localized prostate cancer undetected by digital rectal examination in fewer than 1% of men screened. The effectiveness of early treatment of prostate cancer, compared with deferral of treatment until symptoms develop, is unproven, and good survival rates have been reported among patients who defer aggressive treatment. Complications of treating prostate cancer with radical prostatectomy or radiation treatment include death, impotence, urethral stricture, incontinence, and rectal injury. At the present time, there is insufficient evidence to support a policy of PSA screening, and its use should be discouraged until randomized controlled trials demonstrate benefit from PSA screening.

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