Friday, 23 January 2015 - 11:10
Screenings save 300 men from prostate cancer annually: research
Screening for prostate cancer among men between the ages of 55 and 59 years, could save the lives of 300 men every year. This is according to a large European study of 200 thousand patients, led from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. There is a reluctance among governments regarding a large scale preventative examination into prostate cancer. Elevated blood levels, the first test for this type of cancer, does not always mean that the patient does in fact have cancer. It is feared that a large-scale examination could therefore lead to a large number of men being necessarily burdened with (the possibility of) cancer. Existing treatments could cause impotence or a disturbance of the male hormone production. A large-scale examination would also cost money. The researchers found that screening men between the ages of 55 and 59 years twice annually, could decrease the deaths from prostate cancer by 13 percent. An estimated 2,400 hundred men die from prostate cancer in the Netherlands every year. The screening would mean a decrease of more than 300 in the number of deaths. The researchers assume that the health gains achieved with these screenings are depressed by a quarter by uncertainty in the group of men who are not actually sick. Even then the average "healthy life expectancy" is considerable. The costs for this screening per each additional healthy year of life is approximately the same to that of cervical cancer, for which there is already screening. According to Rotterdam professor Harry de Koning, these health gains can only be achieved through a national screening program, in which 8 out of 10 men participate. "In the current practice, where men discuss whether they need a test with their family doctor or urologist, this effect is not achieved. There is also inequality. One patient is aware of the possibility to test, the other isn't." According to De Koning, the decision to screen for this type of cancer is up to the government. "But they now have a solid argument in their hands for the first time." The Dutch Association of Urology called the study "a step forward", but warns that the danger remains that a large group of men could be burdened for no reason or receive unnecessary treatment.