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Your Opinion: Medical versus political discussion

Dear Editor:

Just give me the facts. When your physician talks to you about health care, you expect to get the medical facts. The men of the Tribune readership were recently (5/30/2012) given advice about prostate screening tests. Specifically, we were told a government panel and The Affordable Health Care Act was teaming up to kill us. How? The government is no longer recommending “routine” PSA tests for prostate cancer.

Contrary to the impression given by the physician’s letter, the United States Preventive Services Task Force was not an Obama invention. The panel of independent physicians was formed by the U.S. Public Health Department during the Reagan years (1984). Their stated purpose was to “develop recommendations for primary care clinicians on the appropriate content of periodic health examinations.”

Any physician can tell men that if we live long enough we will get prostate cancer. They can also tell you this is a very slow acting cancer. If you are 70, some physicians will tell you that you can elect to avoid the treatment because it is not likely to cause death at that age if the cancer is not far advanced. They should also tell you the treatment can cause incontinence and that sexual dysfunction that television ads direct at men hourly.

In 2012 the USPSTF recommended that primary care physicians not “routinely” order PSA’s. They graded the PSA as a D. Only A or B graded tests are required to be covered by the Affordable Health Care Act. Today not all insurance companies will cover “routine” PSA’s. But if a physician specifically orders the test, it will be covered.

Family history and lifestyle should be considered by physicians when ordering medical tests. A colonoscopy is “routinely” done every 10 years, unless, there is a family or health history that tells the physician otherwise.

Some studies are showing over use of PSA’s and mammograms. Recommendations have been made to use the tests more wisely because cost and medical effectiveness are at issue. I want my physician to discuss the medical issues of these matters. There is plenty of medical discussion pro and con on how to use these tests on the Internet. It is easy to see what is a medical versus a political discussion.

Just give me the medical arguments for and against a procedure. Physicians should leave politics out of their advice.

Issue-oriented letters to the editor in response to this or about other local topics are welcome. All letters should be limited to 400 words. The author's name must appear with the letter, and the name, address and phone number provided for verification. Letters that cannot be verified by telephone will not be published. Send letters for publication to editor@newstribune.com

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