Prostate vs. Colorectal Screening

In an effort to improve quality in health care, the medical community is focusing on evidence-based practices. In other words, what has been proven to work? For example, the benefits of prostate-specific antigen, or psa screening for prostate cancer, are controversial. However, screening for colorectal cancer has been proven to work, and to save lives.

But guess which test American men have more often. According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, men are much more likely to have had the unproven test for prostate cancer than the proven test for colon cancer. In only 4 states, which were Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota and Vermont, was colon cancer screening as common as prostate cancer screening.

Researchers at the Veterans' Administration Outcomes Group in Vermont, and Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire, studied data from a federal health survey of almost 50-thousand men, age 40 and older. The researchers found that 75 percent of men age 60 and older had undergone a psa, while only 63 percent had taken a test for colon cancer.

Researchers say the fact that more men are choosing to have the unproven test than the proven test, raises concerns that men may not have have access to the information that would allow them to make the best decisions about their own screening.  A psa is a simple blood test, while colorectal cancer screening can be more uncomfortable. Still, doctors says that if men had all the information, they wouldn't hesitate to be screened for colorectal cancer.  Researchers recommend that men and women, age 50 and older, talk with their physicians about colorectal cancer screening.

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