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Doctors' diagnose value of PSA test -

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Doctors' diagnose value of PSA test

Broadcast: 20/03/2009

Reporter: Sophie Scott

Doctors have been waiting years for the results of two major studies into the effectiveness of
prostate cancer screening. They wanted evidence, one way or the other, on the value of the PSA
test. But sometimes a medical diagnosis is not that simple.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES: Doctors have been waiting years for the results of two major studies into the
effectiveness of prostate cancer screening. They wanted evidence, one way or the other, on the
value of the PSA test. But sometimes a medical diagnosis isn't that simple, as Sophie Scott
reports.

SOPHIE SCOTT: Whether to screen men for prostate cancer is controversial. The test measures a
substance called prostate specific antigen, or PSA. It shows that the prostate is enlarged, but it
doesn't prove that men have cancer.

PHILIP STRICKER, ST VINCENT'S HOSPITAL: We look at the change of PSA with time and we pick up the
cancers, the more aggressive ones, earlier in the younger age group.

Today the results of two large studies into the test have been released. The bigger study of more
than 180,000 men found that regular screening cut the death rate from prostate cancer by a 20 per
cent, but there was a high risk of over diagnosis.

IAN OLVER, CANCER COUNCIL: The European study shows that people were being picked up who had
prostate cancer which would never have caused them any problem in their lifetime. And some of those
people were being treated and, therefore, exposed to the side effects of the treatment.

PHILIP STRICKER: I don't think anybody should rush into treatment straightaway these days, and I
think you should take your time to make your decision because the consequences of treatment can be
quite high.

SOPHIE SCOTT: A shorter, smaller US study found men who got the PSA test were no less likely to die
from the cancer than men who didn't get the screening.

Each year, 16,000 Australian men are diagnosed with prostate cancer. Doctors say what's needed is a
new way of diagnosing how aggressive tumours are so they can recommend appropriate treatments.

IAN OLVER: We can't pick yet between those prostate cancers that would cause a problem and those
that would never cause a symptom in the man's lifetime.

SOPHIE SCOTT: Until that time, the best advice remains discussing whether to have the test with
your doctor.

Sophie Scott, Lateline.