AP: Prostate testing’s dark side: Men who were harmed

Something many of us have suspected for a long time, giving more credence to the purpose of this blog all the way back to the start of my journey a few years ago.  To read about more real life experiences with Prostate Biopsy and other testing, check out the comments in our popular “What to Expect” blog.  Here’s a snippet from an article by the Associated Press:

Terry Dyroff’s PSA blood test led to a prostate biopsy that didn’t find cancer but gave him a life-threatening infection.

In the emergency room several days later, “I didn’t sit, I just laid on the floor, I felt so bad,” said Dyroff, 65, a retired professor from Silver Spring, Md. “I honestly thought I might be dying.”

 Donald Weaver was a healthy 74-year-old Kansas farmer until doctors went looking for prostate cancer. A PSA test led to a biopsy and surgery, then a heart attack, organ failure and a coma. His grief-stricken wife took him off life support.

 “He died of unnecessary preventive medicine,” said his nephew, Dr. Jay Siwek, vice chairman of family medicine at Georgetown University. “Blood tests can kill you.”

 Since Friday, when a task force of independent scientists said routine PSA testing does more harm than good, urologists who make a living treating prostate cancer have rushed to defend the test, as have patients who believe it saved their lives.

 Less visible are men who have been harmed by testing, as Dyroff and Weaver were. The harm is not so much from the test itself but from everything it triggers – biopsies that usually are false alarms, and treatments that leave many men incontinent or impotent for cancers that in most cases were not a threat.

3 thoughts on “AP: Prostate testing’s dark side: Men who were harmed”

  1. You bring up an excellent point!

    I think in general, the medical industry is overly invasive. I am a breast cancer survivor, and so many doctors and technicians use that as an excuse to poke and prod me. They run a test and find nothing, so they order another test – all this radiation is going to give me a secondary cancer. When I question it, they look surprised – “Your insurance will cover it, why not?”

    It’s my time, my high co-pay, excessive radiation exposure…

    One of my favorite books is “Overtreated” – it talks about exactly this – the system is making us sicker and poorer.

  2. Thanks so much for keeping this blog. I’ll be 62 in a week, and in excellent health. A recent PSA was 6.4. I live in a small town and the urologist suggested a biopsy. I chose a retest in 6 months. During this period I will be taking an assortment of natural herbs suggested to me by some very bright people. What bothers me almost as much as the immediate suggestion of a biopsy (I received a 5 minute description) was that I never knew one shouldn’t ejaculate prior to the test. I had ejaculated the night before and the morning of the PSA I took. I apologize if this is TMI, but I’m thinking w/ abstinence and the additions of the herbs, my score should come down. Here’s hoping!

    1. Hi Tom and welcome. Lots of things affect PSA, in fact, I’ve heard that even riding an excercise bike the day before a test can make the level go up. Even day to day variations are normal. Perhaps the most important thing is that if you are tracking your PSA, at least try to keep a routine before the test in regard to things that may affect the results. I don’t know what is a typical range of PSA for age 62, but a 6.4 with no other findings, family history or previous PSA results seems like very little on which to base a biopsy. At the very least, it may be worth a second opinion! I’m not a doctor of course, so please do your own research:-)

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