post by Bill Gardner
The US Preventitive Services Task Force has issued a new recommendation about screening for prostate cancer. Dr. Michael LeFebrvre, The co-chair of the task force, offered this summary:
Prostate cancer is a serious health problem that affects thousands of men and their families. But before getting a PSA test, all men deserve to know what the science tells us about PSA screening: there is a very small potential benefit and significant potential harms. We encourage clinicians to consider this evidence and not screen their patients with a PSA test unless the individual being screened understands what is known about PSA screening and makes the personal decision that even a small possibility of benefit outweighs the known risk of harms.
Cancer screening with the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test has been rigorously studied in hundreds of thousands of patients; the USPSTF recommendation was based on those data.
The Wall St. Journal has published an editorial by Tom Perkins, the founder of Kleiner Perkins and a cancer patient. He summarizes the report as follows:
A recent announcement by the U.S. Preventative Health Service can rather simply be summed up: Most men eventually get prostate cancer, but most don't die from it; those who do are mostly over 75 years of age, so that ends their continuing burden on the public purse. Further, early and prolonged testing is expensive, and can lead to medical complications from biopsy examination.
Mr. Perkins is lying. The recommendation makes no reference to the expense of any medical procedure or any burden on the public purse. The recommendation discusses only the benefits and harms of the use of the PSA test as a screen. Perkins concludes that
A highly taxed and highly regulated economy leads to "Death Panels," like the U.S. Preventative Health Service.
Apparently placing a defamatory claim in quotes makes it ironic or something. You can rationally disagree with the USPSTF. The way to do it is with data.