The following letter is from MCFPC president Terry Kungel regarding a recent draft recommendation from the US Preventive Services Task Force on the use of the prostate specific antigen "PSA" test in screening.
2 November 2011
You most likely have seen recent reports about the US Preventive Services Task Force "USPSTF" draft recommendation to stop all prostate cancer screening that involves the use of the prostate specific antigen "PSA" test. This same group has also been championing the reduction and/or elimination of testing for breast cancer and cervical cancer.
Unfortunately, the debate isn't merely about testing. This controversy echoes arguments where opposing sides see different choices but then want to force their choice on everyone else. The USPSTF is no longer content to respect the choices and decisions made between patients and their doctors. They now want to impose a ban on PSA testing and eliminate choice. The USPSTF recommendation, if it stands, will also likely lead to reimbursement being dropped for all PSA tests. The confusion about the merits of testing and the necessity to use personal funds to get tested, which will occur if the USPSTF draft is adopted, will result in thousands of men needlessly dying from metastatic prostate cancer.
Few of us have much enthusiasm for letter writing campaigns or the task of composing a personal response. But the premature death of many thousands of men prompted me, and I hope you, to do something. My response to the USPSTF is here.
The USPSTF controls the grade assigned to PSA screening tests. It previously assigned a Grade I that concludes there is insufficient data to assess the balance of benefits and harms. Our most important objective with the USPSTF currently is ensuring they don't assign a Grade D that recommends against PSA testing. Grade D will eventually result in the PSA test not being covered for reimbursement.
The conduct of the USPSTF with breast cancer, cervical cancer and now prostate cancer justifies an examination of how they operate and whether they are effectively executing their mission. Sadly, as you will see in my letter, the USPSTF fails patients and physicians in too many ways. It is time for a new organization to do their work and to do so in close collaboration with patients and practicing physicians.
They will only be accepting comments until 5:00 p.m. next Tuesday, 8 November so please act soon.
Maine Coalition to Fight Prostate Cancer