Prostate cancer screening has little benefit for men over 75 but Medicare spends $447 million every year on prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screenings according to new research conducted Xiaomei Ma, associate professor at Yale School of Public Health, and colleagues at the Yale Cancer Outcomes, Public Policy, and Effectiveness Research (COPPER) Center published in the journal Cancer on Oct. 4, 2013.
PSA tests may lead to increased cost from unnecessary biopsies for a slow growing cancer if there is actually a cancer present. The United States Preventive Services Task Force stopped recommending PSA tests in 2012 but Medicare still pays for the test and the biopsy.
The present research is the result of a three year tracking of all men that received Medicare benefits that may or may not have tested positive for prostate cancer with a PSA test.
The researchers also found that 75 percent of the costs of prostate examinations were involved in follow-up tests that resulted in a variation of $45 for the same procedures depending on the part of the United States the person lived in.
The investigators noted that the majority of prostate cancers found in men over 75 years of age were localized and were the type of cancer that would not spread. The scientists also note that the treatment for prostate cancer can be toxic enough to reduce the life span of a 75 year old man more than the cancer would if left untreated.