It’s very easy to get confused over prostate cancer screening – doctors do it all the time! Currently in Australia there are SEVEN distinct “official” recommendations regarding who should be screened for prostate cancer and how often. It’s no wonder nobody actually knows what to do.
The big debate of course, is whether prostate cancer screening should be done at all. Both sides of the debate present statistics, and they can be twisted to defend any position at all.
Here is a great example we came across.
FACT – Survival rates for prostate cancer in America are about 80%. In England 43%.
FACT – the chance of dying of prostate cancer in America is virtually identical to the chance in England.
OK….how do we reconcile those two completely true, but apparently contradictory, facts?
Americans love screening and they test lots of people for prostate cancer very often.
And they love treating prostate cancer, no matter how early they find it.
So in America – 136 out of 100,000 men are found each year to have prostate cancer. You can bet nearly all get some sort of treatment.
In England, where many fewer men are screened, only 49 out of 100,000 men are diagnosed.
Now, if all prostate cancers mattered, you would think that the diagnosis in lots of men in England is being missed, that their treatment is being delayed and that they will die as a result.
But the rate of death from prostate cancer in England is 28 per 100,000 men per year. In America, its trivially better at 26 per 100,000.
In other words, your chance of being TOLD you have prostate cancer in America is more than double in England (136 vs 49). But your chance of DYING of prostate cancer is basically the same (26 vs 28).
Since more men are diagnosed and treated in America, it looks like regular screening, early diagnosis and aggressive treament is more effective, even when the end-results are the same.
The conclusion? Research statistics are very dangerous creatures and need to be handled with care. Talk to your GP about YOUR personal risk.