Another reason to be cautious about early PSA screening
Some researchers now advocate starting PSA screening for prostate cancer at age 40, rather than 50. The idea is to establish a baseline that is useful in interpreting scores later on. I expressed my objection on the basis of the stress of false positives. However, I didn’t think about the potential pain of the biopsy itself until I saw Tara Parker-Pope’s Health Mailbox column about it in the Wall Street Journal. Lots of readers wrote in and a good number had something unpleasant to say about the procedure. It’s anecdotal information but worth considering.
First, on the positive side:
“It was totally painless. I would suggest that routinely calling it a painful procedure is a mistake. It depends on the doctor’s skill and how the patient reacts to the anesthetic, and can range from totally painless on up.”
“I just went through the procedure yesterday… Piece of cake…”
Others were less encouraging:
“…I had six biopsies, and each was worse than the last. True, I had no anesthetic, and I can tell it you, it really smarts. Then for quite a while you have bloody red ejaculate, which is another turn-off they don’t seem to mention.”
“The biopsy was for me terrible. I have learned that like so many things with prostate cancer it varies greatly from one man to the next. The prostate surgery itself was a piece of cake by comparison.”
From my perspective, it’s worth taking into account the physical and emotional downsides of a biopsy when deciding whether to have a PSA test in the first place.
Disclaimer: I’m not offering medical advice. Figure out with your doctor what makes sense for you.November 27, 2006