Men don’t need to receive routine digital rectal exams to screen for prostate cancer from their family doctors, a new review of the medical evidence suggests. But there are other times when the test is worth doing.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed malignancy in men after nonmelanoma skin cancer. Deaths from prostate cancer tend to occur among those in older age groups, the Canadian Cancer Society said.
Traditionally, it was recommended that men over the age of 40 or 50 should be screened for prostate cancer by having a digital rectal exam every year.
But the evidence to support the effectiveness of such testing is poor, says a Canadian doctor who reviewed previous research on the topic involving more than 9,000 patients. The meta-analysis was published in Monday’s issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.
“What I’m suggesting and what the study has shown is not that we abandon the digital rectal exam as a clinical skill, but we should not be screening men in primary care for prostate cancer by doing a digital rectal exam if they are asymptomatic,” said study author Dr. Jason Profetto, a family and academic physician at McMaster University in Hamilton.
While there was no strong evidence to recommend the routine use of digital rectal exams in screening for prostate cancer, the test is helpful for rectal bleeding, enlarged prostate, rectal masses and other situations, Profetto said.
“I am not saying that the digital rectal exam is useless.”
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