FORT MYERS, Fla (Consumer Reports) - Dr. Jeffrey Starke is a Tuberculosis specialist, but found himself in the position of "patient" when his PSA levels - a marker for prostate cancer - edged up slightly on two occasions.
Each time, his personal doctor called for a biopsy, even though elevated PSA levels do not mean cancer is certain.
Starke went with his doctor's advice, a decision he says nearly killed him on the second biopsy.
"I became very, very sick with what's called Sepsis," Starke says. "It's a bacterial infection that landed me in the hospital for four days."
Turns out, both tests came back negative. Starke did not have cancer.
"Elevated PSA levels ... can scare men into undergoing riskier tests," says Dr. John Santa, Consumer Reports' medical expert. "Even when prostate cancer is found, it may not become dangerous. And the fact is, treatment itself can cause serious side effects."
Consumer Reports surveyed thousands of subscribers and medical experts, and poured over tens of thousands of documents. In the end, the organization does not recommend PSA tests for most men, as the latest evidence shows the test does not significantly reduce deaths.
And unless you are considered at high risk for a certain cancer, there are other screenings Consumer Reports advises against. Those include: pancreatic, lung, ovarian, or skin cancer screenings.
"However, there are three tests we analyzed that are well worth getting," Dr. John Santa says. "But it depends on your age."
Colon cancer screening is considered very beneficial for people ages 50 to 75. So are Mammograms for women, ages 59 to 74, every two years. Also recommended are pap smears for women, ages 21 to 65, but only every three years.
Medical experts say these are guidelines for the general public. Those with a family history or other increased risk factor are urged to talk with their doctor about when and how to be tested outside of the guidelines.
For more information, Consumer Reports offers this online article: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cancer0313.htm