Prostate Screening: Stiller’s Advice vs. Recs
Earlier this week, comedian and actor Ben Stiller announced he was diagnosed with, and underwent treatment for, prostate cancer back in 2014, at the age of 48. According to Stiller, the cancer was caught early and he was able to beat the disease because his physician began performing regular PSA (prostate-specific antigen) tests when he was 46 years old, earlier than recommended for men at average risk for prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer screening remains controversial. According to current guidelines, most major medical organizations recommend screening for the disease beginning at age 50 for men with an average risk, age 45 for men at high risk, and age 40 for men at the highest risk. The problem is, in part, that prostate cancer can vary substantially. Some tumors are aggressive—progressing even with treatment—some are moderately aggressive, and some are non-aggressive and slow-growing. PSA testing alone cannot determine how likely the cancer is to spread. Another problem is that PSA tests can be inaccurate—leading to unnecessary treatment, which can have severe side effects, or missed cancers.
Stiller’s revelation has many people talking about prostate cancer and prostate cancer testing—and discussions are a good thing. Beginning around the age of 40, men should talk to their health care provider about their personal risk for prostate cancer and about prostate cancer screening recommendations.
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