A controversial test for prostate cancer may get a boost

The PSA test involves a simple blood draw and produces quick results. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE -- Eight years ago, a government task force recommended against the PSA test for prostate cancer.

It said the prostate-specific antigen test could lead to unnecessary treatment.

Now, in new draft recommendations, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force says men 55 to 69 years old should talk to their doctors to decide if PSA screening is right for them.

The panel still warns that screening could lead to potential misdiagnosis and treatment, which could cause impotence and urinary incontinence.

But the panel also says new evidence supports the benefits of screening, including reducing the chance of dying from prostate cancer. The recommendation is still in draft form, and the task force hasn't said when it will make a final recommendation.

The test involves a simple blood draw and produces quick results.

It's a test Michael Pastula took a year ago when he felt perfectly healthy.

The test indicated elevated levels of the protein, suggesting it might be cancer.

"You'll never know unless you're looking for it. and you need to look for it. You need to look for it," he said.

Dr. Stephen Eulau, a radiation oncologist at the Swedish Cancer Institute, is pleased that the panel has taken a more open-minded approach to the test.

"It's really, really important that the patient and the doctor have a conversation in a collaborative way so they can form a partnership in making this decision. It's very important to recognize that we're not just looking at a blood test. we're looking at a patient."

Pastula 's cancer was aggressive, spreading to his lymph nodes and bladder.

"If you don't have something like a PSA test to give you at least an indication that something's going on," he said. "Then people are going to die from this."

He has had surgery and is undergoing radiation.

"I think you have an excellent opportunity to cure this cancer.," Eulau told him.

"I'd be happy about that." Pastula said.

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