More about PSA / prostate cancer / breast cancer debates

Any time we take on a sacred cow—like testing PSA for prostate cancer—we hear about it. We are certainly getting emails and backlash now. I anticipated that. Thank you to everyone responding. Let me reiterate that I honor anyone’s right to decide about the PSA or mammogram issue for themselves. I feel strongly that we should be educated about risks and benefits before we undergo harmful treatment or diagnostic procedures. To that end, I call attention to not just one or two, but quite a few experts and groups evaluating data and calling for a change in the way we deal with prostate and breast cancer.

Of course some people feel that a PSA test detected advanced cancer and thus saved their life—including Rudy Giuliani. But the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says men should not get the PSA test because of so many who are consequently maimed and radiated unnecessarily. Read about it in the New York Times HERE.

And read a great interview on NPR here challenging the sacred-cow idea that “early detection is better.”

My opinion is that we need a new cancer marker for the prostate. And if we continue to monitor PSA, we need doctors to stop nearly automatically subjecting men to biopsies, surgery, and radiation for elevated (but lower) PSA numbers. We need more docs willing to work with patients on highly effective lifestyle changes as alternatives or at least complements to the surgical and radiation protocols.

The same task force reviewed the literature and recommended AGAINST women in their 40’s receiving annual mammograms, for similar reasons, one being that mammography finds cancer tumors that would never grow and become a problem in the woman’s lifetime. (I have mentioned here that a tennis opponent of mine had a mastectomy this past summer and was still home-bound 2 months later, having detected a STAGE ZERO tumor in a routine mammogram.) We also must consider that the radiation exposure cumulatively (and ironically) increases their risk of breast cancer, more in younger women than older women. Those with genetic markers for breast cancer are excluded from this advice. Read about it HERE.

I have been asked what I do. I state that here not to influence anyone else, who must be responsible for their own choices, of course, but simply to answer the question. This is not intended as medical advice.

I confess I have never had a mammogram and do not plan to, in the future. (My mother has never had one.) I choose a present and future without radiation. I feel confident in this decision mostly because my lifestyle is very disease preventive. I did have a thermographic scan a few months ago and will do that periodically. I have always worn a bra 16-18 hours a day and am changing that to about 8-16 hours  now.