Prostate Cancer Screening and Medical Malpractice

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of deaths resulting from cancer. Every year, approximately 29,000 men die in the U.S. from cancer of the prostate. Early detection with routine screening followed immediately with appropriate treatment could prevent many of these deaths. The failure on the part of some doctors to recommend routine prostate cancer screening to their male patients and to follow up on abnormal test results may constitute medical malpractice.

Screening for prostate cancer

Cancer specialists generally recommend that all men between the ages of 50 and 75, even those without any symptoms, should be screened for prostate cancer Men with a single first degree relative (such as a father, brother, or son) diagnosed with cancer of the prostate before age 65, or of African-American descent, are at higher risk and should be screened starting at age 45. Men with multiple first-degree relatives diagnosed at an early age are at even higher risk and should begin screening at age 40. Screening consists of yearly:

o digital examination and

o PSA test

The digital examination is performed by briefly inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the back wall of the prostate. This procedure allows a doctor to check for the presence of nodules in the prostate.

The PSA test is a blood test that measures the amount of prostate specific antigen, an enzyme that is produced by the prostate and released into the blood stream. An elevated level of this enzyme could indicate the presence of cancer. Generally, PSA test results in the range of 0-4 are considered to be within the normal range for most men. These numbers can be further refined by such factors as the patient’s age.

An abnormal digital examination or a PSA test result higher than 4.0 should raise the suspicion that prostate cancer may be present. When this happens, the patient should, at a minimum, be advised of the possibility that the abnormal test results might indicate the presence of cancer and of options for further testing, such as a TRUS guided biopsy, to confirm whether cancer is present in the prostate.


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