Prostate cancer hits one in six men in their lifetimes, though in most cases it progresses so slowly that it would never cause problems. PSA tests can give an early warning of prostate cancer. But PSA tests also give many false alarms, prompting more than one million unnecessary biopsies every year. And when prostate cancer is found, more than 80% of men opt to have surgery, radiation or hormone therapy that sometimes leaves them incontinent or impotent, even though their cancer was probably never life-threatening.
We recently advised that doctors stop using PSA tests to screen men with no symptoms of prostate cancer. That prompted an outcry from some experts and advocacy groups concerned that prostate cancer would be missed, and many physicians have continued to order the tests.
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