The failure of a physician to timely diagnose cancer is a problem. We are told that early detection of a cancer leads to a better outcome, and the longer the delay in diagnosis of a cancer reduces the likelihood the cancer can be cured. For the last 20 years, physicians have recommended a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test every year or two to detect prostate cancer early.
On May 22, 2012, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a panel of physicians, Ph.D’s, and nurses, released a recommendation against PSA screening tests for prostate cancer. The Co-Chair of the USPSTF made the following statement:
“Prostate cancer is a serious health problem that affects thousands of men and their families. But before getting a PSA test, all men deserve to know what the science tells us about PSA screening: there is a very small potential benefit and significant potential harms. We encourage clinicians to consider this evidence and not screen their patients with a PSA test unless the individual being screened understands what is known about PSA screening and makes the personal decision that even a small possibility of benefit outweighs the known risk of harms.”