Opinions differ wildly in Switzerland about the use of early cancer detection programmes. Some cantons are convinced that they save lives and offer their populations screening programmes across the board. Other cantons opt not to offer them.
The PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test is a simple blood test that measures the levels of a protein that is only produced by the cells of the prostate gland in a man's blood. A PSA level that is too high points to a problem with the prostate. Although a high PSA level can indicate prostate cancer, there can also be other reasons for a high PSA result. To help you weigh the benefits and risks of a PSA test for the early detection of prostate cancer, we compiled the facts and an overview of the most important advantages and disadvantages in collaboration with the Harding Center for Risk Literacy.
Five long-term studies were carried out during which thousands of men over 50 either did or did not do regular PSA tests. The figures refer to groups of 1,000 men older than 50 who regularly did PSA tests over an observation period of 11 years (screening group) and a group consisting of the same number of men who did not participate in any screening (comparison group).
The assessment of the scientific results shows that PSA screening did not reduce the number of men who died from prostate cancer during this period of 11 years. The number of men who died from prostate cancer was the same for both groups: 7 out of 1,000 men died from prostate cancer. In summary, the PSA test did not have any impact on the mortality rate. In the observation period of 11 years, a biopsy based on misleading PSA test results was done on 160 of 1,000 men in the screening group. Twenty out of 1,000 men in the screening group were misdiagnosed and wrongly treated for prostate cancer.
In its report of 31 October 2011 the Swiss Medical Board stated that tests to measure the PSA levels of men who do not exhibit any symptoms are not justified.
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