Taking Control of our Own Healthcare: Defending the maligned and misunderstood PSA test.

KMI Learning, a leader in healthcare eLearning, announces the release of the second in a series of patient education videos on prostate cancer. The series is being developed in cooperation with the Prostate Cancer Research Institute of Los Angeles, California and Prostate Oncology Specialists of Marina del Rey, California. The videos are intended to clear up misconceptions surrounding the diagnosis and overtreatment of this cancer which is different for every man, ranging from a very serious, to very slow-growing disease.

In 2012 the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force came out with a recommendation in to do away with the PSA test for prostate cancer. Their reasoning was that widespread use of the test is responsible for very high levels of overtreatment meaning that hundreds of thousands of men each year undergo unnecessary radical cancer procedures with really serious side effects. The PSA test is the initial spark that starts the forest fire.

The task force is correct about the overtreatment. It’s estimated that over 500,000 men have unneeded biopsies every year and 50,000 men undergo radical prostatectomies that they don’t need. The problem, however, is not with the PSA test but with the all but inevitable follow up, the random needle biopsy. This procedure is invasive and dangerous causing infections serious enough to require hospitalization in 3% of men undergoing it.

Recent advances in MRI imaging have rendered the random needle biopsy all but obsolete. The 3 Tesla, or 3T MRI scanners can detect all but the tiniest tumors. Where tumors or suspected tumors are found  the scans can be used to guide targeted biopsies.

The second video in the online patient education series, titled What’s the deal with the PSA test? makes the case that the test is still a valuable tool when partnered with multiparametric scans using 3T MRI machines.

Patient education and empowerment are important for everyone. It’s our view and the view of our partners that men over 40 should include PSA testing as part of routine yearly checkups.  It’s important, that in the event of a high test result, they take control of the follow up and not get swept onboard what writer Ralph Blum calls the “Overtreatment Express”. This video series points  men to resources and introduces them to a new way of thinking about their own healthcare that can change their lives for the better.

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