National Experts to Debate Controversy Over PSA Screenings, Discuss Treatment Advances for Prostate Cancer at LDS Hospital

Jess Gomez



SALT LAKE CITY, UT — Four of the nation’s leading experts will be at LDS Hospital on Saturday to debate the value of PSA screening for prostate cancer in men with no symptoms of the disease. They will also discuss new national recommendations that these screenings be discontinued for this group of men. 
The experts will be in Salt Lake City for the Cowan Cancer Symposium, the largest and longest-running cancer symposium in the region.  The event, sponsored by Intermountain Healthcare, and now in its 31st year, brings together oncology experts to teach medical professionals from across Utah and the Intermountain West.
The Cowan Cancer Symposium is named for the late Leland R. Cowan, MD, a pioneering surgical oncologist and radiation therapist whose career spanned nearly 50 years, most of it at LDS Hospital. 
NOTE: The Cowan Cancer Symposium is this Saturday, February 2, from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Education Center at LDS Hospital. News media are invited to cover the event. Onsite contact is Heidi Nedreberg, 801-651-6704.
Last year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force touched off a firestorm among physicians when it recommended against PSA screening for prostate cancer in men with no symptoms of the disease. Supporters said the change would spare men from false-positive test results and treatments that might do more harm than good; critics said more men would die if patients didn’t have the simple blood test.
Prostate cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death in men over age 75. Officials expected approximately 240,000 new cases to be diagnosed in 2012, and more than 28,000 deaths from the disease.
“After scientists discovered a tumor marker for prostate cancer, we thought, ‘We’ll find the cancer earlier, we’ll treat it earlier; people will be cured,” said Vilija Avizonis, MD, a radiation oncologist at Intermountain Medical Center and symposium co-director. “But now, physicians are wondering if the PSA test is the panacea we thought it was going to be.”
Speakers include:
  • Ian M. Thompson, Jr., MD, a urologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center and a cancer researcher who served on the task force that looked at whether or not the PSA test should be used. He will discuss early detection. 
  • Derek Raghavan, MD, PhD, a medical oncologist and president of the Levine Cancer Institute at the Carolinas HealthCare System. He will discuss the national task force screening recommendations against PSA testing. 
  • Eric A. Klein, MD, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic and chair of the Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute. He will talk about who should be treated with radical prostatectomy. 
  • Nicholas J. Volgezang, MD, a medical oncologist and chair of the Developmental Therapeutics Committee for U.S., one of the largest community-based research networks in the country. He will talk about cutting-edge drug therapies that may improve survival.

The conference will end with remarks and a presentation of case studies by Jay Bishoff, MD, director of the Intermountain Urological Institute at Intermountain Medical Center.

“This is such a confusing time for physicians trying to counsel their patients about prostate cancer screening,” said Dr. Avizonis. “The Cowan Symposium is an important resource in educating physicians, nurses and other care providers. Without it, we’d have to travel to several conferences around the country to gain the same, very specialized knowledge.”

“The end result,” she said, “is better care for our patients here in Utah.”

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