For years, communities across the country have hosted health fairs where men can be tested for potential prostate cancer.
It's a bad idea and should be stopped in many cases, says the American Cancer Society in newly revised guidelines.
Too often, men don't get adequate information about the pros and cons of screening, needed counseling or recommended follow-up care when test results are abnormal, the organization notes.
That's especially true of screening programs in disadvantaged communities, where access to medical care is compromised. But even in better off communities, men often don't get the information they need to make informed decisions about prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests.
In a national survey, only 20.6 percent of men said doctors discussed the pros and cons of screening and asked about their preferences, according to a September 2009 report in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Slightly more than 30 percent of men didn't have conversations with doctors about PSA tests. When these conversations occurred, doctors gave much more emphasis to the benefits of screening (discussed 71.4 percent of the time) than the risks, including incontinence and sexual dysfunction (discussed 32 percent of the time).
The study was based on responses from 375 men who participated in the National Survey of Medical Decisions.
Helping men make informed decisions about screening for prostate cancer is a major focus of the new American Cancer Society guidelines. For the first time, they specify that every man should be informed about the "uncertainties, risks and potential benefits of screening" and that "no man should be tested without receiving this information," the organization says.
"We think it's very important that men hear all the facts before making a decision," says Robert Smith, the cancer society's director of cancer screening.—firstname.lastname@example.orgCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times