Warren Buffett’s recent revelation about his prostate cancer diagnosis re-opened the debate over age and prostate cancer screening and treatment.
At 81, Buffett falls outside of the commonly used guidelines that men over 75 don’t need to be screened for prostate cancer.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force made this recommendation in 2008. They note that most men over age 75 who develop prostate cancer die from other causes. Prostate cancer in older men tends to develop slowly, so these men do not need treatment that can cause incontinence and other side effects, experts say.
Interestingly, the task force announced its prostate cancer screening recommendations a year before it unveiled its recommendation that breast cancer screening should begin at 50 instead of the current 40 years of age. There was sustained public outrage over the breast cancer screening recommendations, but little hubbub arose over the guidelines on prostate cancer.
Importantly, while guidelines are created to help the majority of people, individuals can fall to one extreme or the other. That means some men may develop prostate cancer earlier or later in life than the typical patient. Men are encouraged to talk with their doctor about their personal health concerns and whether screening is right for them.
Timothy Wilson, M.D., Pauline and Martin Collins Family Chair in Urology and chief of the Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology, has treated men with prostate cancer for more than two decades. He recently shared his thoughts in this video about the value of prostate cancer screening.