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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Karen Weintraub, Deputy Health and Science Editor, and Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor.
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Monday, July 9, 2007
'Prostatempathy' may guide inappropriate PSA test ordering, study says
Men who are too young or too old for prostate cancer screening tests are still getting them from clinicians whose "prostatempathy" may be guiding their decisions, Harvard researchers suggest in a study of seven New England veterans' hospitals.
Health experts agree that men without symptoms who are under 40, older than 75 or expected to have less than 10 years to live do not benefit from the prostate-specific antigen test. They can suffer psychological and financial costs and possibly have procedures that may not help them, according to the article in today's Archives of Internal Medicine.
Dr. B. Price Kerfoot and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School and the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System decided to look at who was ordering these tests despite the consensus that they should not be used. They found that people who rarely ordered the PSA tests, urologists and male practitioners all tended to order the tests more often for men who fell into groups considered inappropriate for the screening.
"The percentage of inappropriate PSA screening increased significantly with the age of male health care providers," the authors wrote. "It it possible that, as they age, male health care providers increasingly empathize with their older male patients over prostate cancer concerns. Their 'prostatempathy' may then lead to more aggressive screening in these older male patients."