MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - A test meant to save your life could be harming you. That's what a panel of doctors is saying about the PSA blood test, which screens for prostate cancer.
A U.S. government task force is warning men to avoid being screened for the cancer that kills 30,000 every year.
That conventional wisdom has several men at risk of prostate cancer siding with their doctors and not with the government.
“It's just the opposite of what I've always heard,” John McKee said. “You should be tested and try to catch it before it gets too far.”
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says doctors have to screen a thousand men using the PSA test before they can save one life. According to their data, most prostate cancers are slow-growing and won't kill you, but more than 90 percent of men choose treatment anyway. As a result as many as 50 percent become impotent and 26 percent can't control their bladders.
Critics say the task force cherry picked its data.
“Twenty years ago 50 percent of men wouldn’t live 10 years with prostate cancer, now 99 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer will live 10 years or longer,” said Memphis urologist, Dr. Mark Saslawsky.
Saslawsky says the controversial study neglected a high risk group, black men with a family history of prostate cancer.
“My doctor told me, said it was important and that's why I took it,” Freddie Stinson said.
Stinson's test came back negative. He learned later the screening could have done more harm than good.
“I think, well, I shouldn't have took it. You know, if I had known that now, well then I probably wouldn't have took it,” Stinson said.
“In disregarding that patient population what they're doing is they're telling those men who are more likely to develop cancer and more likely to die of prostate cancer that they don't need to be screened,” Dr. Saslawsky said.
Both John McKee and Freddie Stinson are due for another PSA test. What they decide could cost their lives.
As for the prostate cancer death toll, urologists say it's down roughly 40 percent from when the PSA test was first introduced.
That, they say, backs up their claim, that the blood test is a life saver.