Recently, I spent a few days with Dr. Richard J. Ablin, the doctor who, in 1970, discovered the protein, prostate specific antigen (PSA), used in what would later become the PSA test. I had no idea what to expect before I met him. I knew that he was a fighter, but he was always kind to me in our email and telephone communications.
Here was a man who had already taken a beating by his peers because he had the courage to blow the whistle on a medical test that should have never been used so widely and flagrantly on any man requesting a routine physical examination. Urologist came out swinging and I’ve read some of their attacks against him, but Ablin was focused on the truth like a soaring eagle focuses on a field mouse. After all, who better would know the limitations of a medical test, than the one who invented it? His excellent book, The Great Prostate Hoax, contends that millions of men’s lives had been, and continue to be permanently damaged, because of their physician’s interpretation of the PSA test results, which do not diagnose prostate cancer. Despite this, the medical field in general continues to actively promote PSA testing. Dr. Ablin seemed to be a brave albeit lone wolf in his fight against routine PSA prostate cancer screening…until now.
This past week, two studies published in the online version of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirmed Dr. Ablin’s stance on routine screening of men using the PSA test, and Dr. Otis Brawley agreed with them. Why is that important and who is this Dr. Otis Brawley? He is the chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society (ACS), an oncologist and a world-renowned cancer expert. When Brawley speaks, doctors listen. Perhaps now they really will, before more men suffer.
Some male patients are angry with Dr. Ablin, contending that their lives were saved by the PSA test. This is what their urologists told them and far be it from anyone to move them from that position. I contend, however, that for every man that believes his life was made better by PSA testing, there are more-many more- whose lives as men fell apart because of the PSA test. All men and more importantly their urologists need to know the truth about this grossly oversold and potentially injurious medical test.
I believe that men and women are being over tested, over diagnosed and over treated in America today. Unbeknownst to most of us, a health insurance card is NOT a “get out of jail free” card. For many of us, it is just the opposite, because our lives change when testing and treatment begins. It is not entirely their fault, however. Doctors are overusing tests and medications because we are overusing insurance cards. Men and women, PLEASE think of all of the possible consequences before you schedule that next routine physical exam.
Now, change your diet and get out and exercise!
Thank you, Dr. Ablin for your gallant efforts. Now, could your next book please expound upon routine mammography?