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Medicare Proposal To Penalize Doctors For PSA Testing Draws Criticism

The prostate-specific antigen test was long considered the gold standard in screening for prostate cancer. Helping men and their doctors determine if prostate cancer might be present, this test has led to positive diagnoses for thousands of men and potentially life-saving treatments. Although widely used for years to help find this form of cancer in its earliest stages, the frequency of false positives has given rise to a change in recommended usage.

The United States Preventative Services Task Force no longer recommends the PSA test’s routine usage. To send that message home, Medicare has been considering adding a penalty for physicians who use the test for routine screening.

While many researchers have raised concerns about false positives, some of the very same voices who urged caution about the test’s routine use, are now criticizing Medicare’s proposal. Fearing undue government oversight in the medical office and the possible denial of tests that may indeed be medically necessary, some in the medical community are strongly urging Medicare to abandon the proposal.

The PSA was long used as a first line in screening. The blood test offered a simple way to determine if elevated PSA levels might prompt the need for further testing. The frequency of false positives, however, led to this test being taken off the table for routine screening. Even so, it remains a tool widely used in monitoring after prostate cancer has been confirmed and for screening men considered at higher risk for the disease’s development.

All men are technically at risk for the development of prostate cancer. The risk tends to rise with age. Men who are age 50 and older are urged to speak with their healthcare providers about their personal risks for the disease. Screening should begin around the age of 50 for men at average risk for the disease and sooner for men at higher risk.