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World Cancer Congress releases new guidelines for prostate cancer testing

Xinhua, December 4, 2014 Adjust font size:

Prostate cancer checks in Australia are set to improve after cancer agencies and health experts reached an agreement on new testing guidelines at the World Cancer Congress (WCC) currently being held in Melbourne.

The commonly-used Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test can be unreliable because the asymptomatic nature of prostate cancer occasionally leads to false positive readings.

Patient groups frequently advocated broad-base screening, but health professionals have been concerned it leads to unnecessary invasive procedures.

Cancer agencies and health professionals have come together to write new guidelines that indicate who should get tested and when.

The new guidelines, developed by an expert advisory panel and released on Thursday, attempt to limit the harm associated with PSA testing while maximizing the benefits.

The Chair of the Expert Advisory Panel, Emeritus Professor Villis Marshall, said the lack of consensus on PSA testing confused men and their doctors.

"Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in Australian men and the fourth most common cause of men's deaths worldwide. We simply cannot afford to ignore this important health issue," said Prof Marshall.

Leading cancer epidemiologist Emeritus Professor Bruce Armstrong said the draft guidelines did not recommend a national screening program, like those for breast and bowel cancers.

"The draft guidelines are intended to inform the interactions between men and their doctors, when a man might request a PSA test or his doctor might offer one," said Prof. Armstrong.

"The draft guidelines are intended to provide clarity and help men and their doctors to make better informed choices about prostate cancer testing based on the latest available evidence."

In 2012, the United States Preventative Services Task Force, which advises American doctors, recommended against PSA testing, citing the testing may result in "over-treatment" and "over- diagnosis". It is hoped the new Australian guidelines will reduce the number of false positives and the associated anxiety.

The new guidelines include provisions to offer evidence-based support when discussing the harms and benefits of undergoing testing, a series of biopsies from around the prostate in addition to those of the prostate itself, and not offering PSA screening to men unlikely to live another seven years.

Following a public consultation process, the guidelines will be submitted to Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council.

The 2014 WCC is focusing on prevention, detection and treatment of cancer. On Wednesday, experts said cancer treatment had advanced to the point it was "no longer a death sentence."

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