As a result of a the now written-off screening test for prostate cancer, thousands of men will be left wondering if their invasive surgery, possibly resulting in impotence and incontinence, was actually necessary or just a huge mistake.
The PSA (prostate specific antigen) test is designed to establish whether PSA antigen levels are raised. Raised PSA levels had alsways been associated with prostate cancer, but now researchers at Stanford University have dismissed the test as being, 'all but useless'. After monitoring prostate samples collected over 20 years the team concluded that the test indicated no more than the size of the prostate gland.
Leader of the research, Professor Thomas Stamey, stated prostate cancer occurs in most men if they live long enough. A person with raised PSA levels would most likely sent for biopsy and it follows that doctors were most likely to find cancer anyway.
Professor Stamey admits that while some men do need surgical intervention to relieve suffering, the mission must now be to stop removing the prostate for every man who has cancer.
Roughly 80 per cent of men in their 80s and around 8 per cent of men in their 20s have prostate cancer. Apart from the dangers of any invasive surgery the removal of the prostate gland can lead to impotence and incontinence because of the nerves that are severed during surgery.