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Spend $300 & Find Out Your Prostate Cancer Risk; Great News, But Something Is Missing
Today, the New York Times reports that a company formed by Wake Foresttree_of_knowledge.jpg Researchers, ProActive Genetics, has developed a test that will enable men to find out whether they are at an increased risk of prostate cancer.  According to the Times:

“[The test], some medical experts say, [is] a first taste of what is expected to be a revolution in medical prognostication. The results, they agree, are clear. But the question is what happens next. And will patients be helped or harmed? Because the new test — which will analyze DNA in blood or saliva samples and is to be offered by ProActive Genetics — cannot predict which men will get aggressive cancers, it could lead to more screening and unnecessary surgery and complications. But, proponents say, it could also help men decide whether they want aggressive screening in the first place.”

The experts have it right.  How are men going to deal with this information?  How should it be communicated to them? 

As I mentioned in a previous post focusing on the promise and perils of genetic testing, medical technology is advancing, yet we have not developed the language and skills to effectively communicate about the issues it raises.  As Dr. Edward P. Gelmann of Columbia University said:

“Technology today enables us to find out a huge amount of information.  But how does the public deal with this information?  How does it help them make decisions?  And if they make a decision, does that lead to a day, a week, a month, of life saved?” 

All good questions that we have not developed solid answers for. 

Image: Justen Ladda: “Tree of Knowledge” (2000)

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