I am a prostate cancer survivor who owes his cancer-free status to both the PSA test and competent medical advice and treatment. The recommendation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (U-B, May 22, page A7) to drop the PSA test points in the wrong direction.
The statistics cited in the story are not wrong, but broad-stroke averages, and do not apply to individual cases. Without the PSA test results I would never have known I had cancer until it was too late to take curative action.
I had no clinical symptoms (no bleeding, pain, urinary incontinence, nor erectile dysfunction), but my PSA was over 10! Biopsies revealed the cancer was already bilateral. At age 58 "watchful waiting" was not an appropriate option, despite knowing that prostate cancer generally progresses slowly.
After considerable research I elected radical prostatectomy over other treatment options, performed by a surgeon whose reputation for the procedure was impeccable. More than 13 years later I am cancer-free - PSA level is "undetectable."
The PSA test does not prevent or cure prostate cancer. But in the hands of skilled medical professionals it is a useful and sometimes critical tool. It should not be abandoned.
Edwin A. Karlow