President Barack Obama recently received a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test to screen for prostate cancer during his yearly physical examination. Dr. Jeffrey C. Kuhlman, White House physician, released a report dated October 31, 2011, which said that the test was performed after the president made an “informed patient request.”
I find it interesting that the president asked for the test, since the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently recommended against PSA-based screening for prostate cancer in a recommendation statement that concludes that “there is moderate certainty that the harms of PSA-based screening for prostate cancer outweigh the benefits.” Yet according to Dr. Kuhlman’s report, the commander in chief felt that the screening was important enough to ask for the test personally. Perhaps President Obama realized that the USPSTF report was flawed, as most urologists and oncologists treating thousands of cases of prostate cancer believe. Perhaps the president was aware that there was no oncologist or urologist on the task force, or perhaps he was aware that, since the advent of PSA screening, the death rate from prostate cancer has been reduced by more than 40 percent.
This statistic leads me to ask, if the president of the United States, who has the country’s best doctors and most current information at his disposal, chooses the PSA test, why shouldn’t all men have the same choice?
President Obama is fortunate to have the means and knowledge to ask his doctor for a PSA test. If the USPSTF recommends against the test, millions of other men might not be so lucky. We all admit that the test is not perfect, but it is currently the easiest and least expensive method of detecting prostate gland abnormalities.
The key is to preserve patient choice and to prevent a government agency from stepping between a doctor and his patient when making decisions about prostate health. What is good enough for the commander in chief’s health should be good enough for the health of all American men.
Dudley S. Danoff, MD, FACS is the attending urologic surgeon and founder/president of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Tower Urology Group in Los Angeles, California. He is the author of Penis Power: The Ultimate Guide To Male Sexual Health (Del Monaco Press, 2011) and Superpotency (Warner Books).
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