One of our favourite sports is commenting on the frequent updated guidelines on prostate cancer testing. Currently there are SEVEN approved sets of guidelines – each of which differs from the others on who and how to test men without symptoms to see if they have cancer (screening).
Today, there is an eighth.
To be fair, the new guidelines are in draft form only, they aim to bring consensus to the process and they are looking at the evidence as carefully as one can.
The most interesting early discussion point is that digital rectal examination (DRE – the finger up the backside) is no longer recommended. This comes as a surprise to those of us who were taught that DRE is free, simple, side effect free and useful. But the best research study suggests that it only picks up a very, very small number of additional cancers and runs the risk on increasing the false positive rate (suggesting men have cancer and need biopsies when in fact there is nothing wrong).
The jury is still out on this and the guidelines are only in draft stage. But at least you can have some expert advice to back you up when you are arguing with your doctor about the merits of DRE!