Good Health Blog

To test or not? The decision making process.

- August 27, 2009

Medical specialty groups are often presenting recommendations for routine follow-up and screening within their area. These recommendations are tested, studies relevant to the area reviewed and then the peak Medical Bodies – in the US the Preventative Services Task force and in Australia and New Zealand the College of General practitioners make a recommendation based on the evidence available at the time.
Sifting through the recommendations is a slow task and one that has given me insight into the complex nature of taking a preventative health protocol for a population and working out how to apply it at an individual patient level. The mens health area for PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) screening is one such area. Prostate cancer is a common problem but the screening tests are not perfect – they detect ‘false positives’ which can lead to anxiety and unnecessary intervention. On the other hand nobody wants to miss the diagnosis of prostate cancer. These are the sort of problems all Doctors deal with when doing examinations and ordering investigations. The perfect test has yet to be developed.