Sinclair Cares takes a look at a new test for prostate screening

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force says men 55 to 69 years old should talk to their doctors to decide if PSA screening is right for them. (WCHS/WVAH)

A controversial test to screen for prostate cancer is getting a boost. After recommending against the PSA test for years, a government panel is taking another look.

Working in partnership with Sinclair Broadcast Group, the parent company of WCHS/WVAH, Eyewitness News believes it is a privilege and a responsibility to give viewers information to make decisions about their health.

This special report takes a look at why more men might now get the PSA screening.

At the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle, Michael Pastula is undergoing a prostate test.

"Take some deep breaths for me, deep breath," said his doctor.

A year ago, Pastula felt perfectly healthy. His only indication something might be wrong? A blood test that showed elevated levels of a protein, indicating possible prostate cancer.

"You'll never know unless you're looking for it,” Pastula said. “And you need to look for it. You need to look for it."

The prostate-specific antigen or PSA test is a simple blood draw with quick results. Eight years ago, a government task force recommended against it, saying it led to unnecessary treatment.

Now, in new draft recommendations, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force said men 55 to 69 years old should talk to their doctors to decide if PSA screening is right for them.

They still warn screening could lead to potential misdiagnosis and treatment which could cause impotence and urinary incontinence.

But the panel also says new evidence supports the benefits of screening, including reducing the chance of dying from prostate cancer and catching it before cancer spreads to other parts of the body.

Dr. Stephen Eulau, a radiation oncologist, is happy to see the more open minded approach.

"It's really, really important that the patient and the doctor have a conversation in a collaborative way so they can form a partnership in making this decision,” Eulau said. “It's very important to recognize that we're not just looking at a blood test. We're looking at a patient."

Pastula's cancer was aggressive, spreading to his lymph nodes and bladder.

"If you don't have something like a PSA test to give you at least an indication that something's going on, then people are going to die from this,” he said.

Pastula had surgery and is now undergoing radiation.

“Doctor says "I think you have an excellent opportunity to cure this cancer. I’d be happy about that," Pastula said.

The recommendation that men talk to their doctor about PSA screening is still just in draft form. The task force hasn't said when it will issue a final recommendation.

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