PSA tests should not be offered routinely to men without symptoms of prostate cancer, says College

Publication date: 06 March 2018

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to a study by Cancer Research UK which found that one-off PSA tests for prostate cancer do not save lives.

She said: "Prostate cancer costs thousands of men their lives every year across the UK, and GPs are working hard to ensure that patients are able to recognise the symptoms of prostate cancer, which if caught and managed in a timely way, can greatly increase their chances of survival.

"GPs have long held reservations about the effectiveness of PSA testing based on previous research findings, in particular with regard to potential overdiagnosis and its associated risks - today's research supports these concerns.

"It shows that PSA testing is not sensitive enough to either detect the subtle variations between prostate cancers or exclude clinically insignificant cancers. The results being that in some cases the need for urgent treatment might be missed, while in others it causes unnecessary worry for patients, who might have to undergo a biopsy and deal with the associated risks of the procedure.

"This large, high-quality study is really useful in backing up our calls for GPs to have better access to a more specific and sensitive test than the PSA test. It is now important that this research is taken into account as new research is commissioned and new clinical guidelines are developed.

"The College does not recommend that the PSA test is offered routinely to men who do not present with prostate cancer symptoms. However, if a patient is concerned about developing the disease or about any worrying symptoms we would encourage them to speak to a healthcare professional."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 765

Notes to editor

This Cancer Research UK infographic is very helpful in explaining the complexities of PSA testing:

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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