Following the largest annual medical conference focused on finding solutions for prostate cancer, deaths from the disease are on the upswing for the first time in a generation. It’s perplexing. Prostate cancer has a 99 percent survival rate when it’s caught early, and there’s been a vast discovery of new life-prolonging treatments over the last decade.
The argument against the use of the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test for detecting prostate cancer is providing an excuse for men not to know the risks or to get screened. There is overwhelming evidence that the PSA test reduces advanced disease and death. However, the tool also leads to pain and suffering for men if the information is not used correctly to develop the best individualized treatment pathway.
It’s the latter that medical professionals at the USPSTF and even at our ally, American Cancer Society, focus on. They want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, we need a comprehensive approach to conquering prostate cancer. A plan to spar men with low-risk of death from the disease while finding and treating men with aggressive disease before it’s too late.
In recent years, there’s been an explosion of genomic testing and imaging tools that can be used to better determine the aggressiveness of a cancer, discover a genetic predisposition to the disease, and determine which treatment will work best for each patient.
But even at the American Urological Association conference this week, researchers can’t seem to agree which genomic tools are best to use for each patient. As a result, the insurance industry is resistant to cover these important tools that can save lives from prostate cancer while preventing men from unnecessary treatment.
Moving forward, the first step toward a solution in lowering prostate cancer deaths is for researchers and the makers of these tools to set aside their differences. They need to come to the table to share information in order to achieve the best guidelines for determining which patients need treatment and which ones do not.
We call on our partners and our friends in the research community to join us in making that happen. We need a dynamic team of experts and stakeholders to make the world a better place for men and families fighting prostate cancer and for the next generation of men at risk.