Risk vs. Benefit

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Prostate screenings have become a controversial topic, says Dr. Brad Burget of INTEGRIS Family Care Central in Oklahoma City.

“Several important groups no longer whole-heartedly endorse routine prostate cancer screenings,” he says.

According to the American Urological Association (AUA), the greatest beneficiaries of prostate cancer screenings are men ages 55 to 69.

“Those (patients) are strongly recommended to engage in a shared decision-making process with their physician,” Burget adds.

The AUA recommends the same discussion for men younger than age 55 with a first-degree relative with prostate cancer and men of African-American descent.

“Much of care today is shifting away from a paternalistic practice of medicine to a more patient-centered practice, which involves both the patient and the physician in the decision making process,” says Burget.

The new guidelines stem from a belief that the potential harms (such as urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction) of certain prostate cancer screening methods may outweigh their potential benefits, Burget says. The shift in thinking, however, does not mean men with symptoms of or at high risk for prostate cancer should stop consulting a doctor.

Symptoms of prostate cancer include decreased urinary stream, increased frequency of urination, inability to fully void, lower back pain and sexual dysfunction.

“If a man is having symptoms, he should discuss them with his health care provider,” advises Burget.

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