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The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia

RCPA is the leading organisation representing pathologists and senior laboratory scientists in Australasia. Its mission is to train and support pathologists and to improve the use of pathology testing to achieve better healthcare.

Recommendations and resources

1) Do not perform surveillance urine cultures or treat bacteriuria in elderly patients in the absence of symptoms or signs of infection.

Asymptomatic bacteriuria is a common finding in all ages and in association with other comorbidities. Treatment of asymptomatic bacteriuria is recommended in pregnancy but not in other clinical situations. Prophylaxis against development of symptoms prior to simple cystoscopy and prosthetic joint replacement is not recommended. Extensive guidelines from the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) are available for this condition and asymptomatic bacteriuria in catheterised patients. The use of chemical screening strips in asymptomatic patients may lead to unnecessary urine cultures when positive results are obtained. Increasing antibiotic resistance in urinary pathogens may be a consequence of unnecessary treatment.

Resources

2) Do not perform PSA testing for prostate cancer screening in men with no symptoms and whose life expectancy is less than 7 years.

Prostate cancer causes significant mortality and morbidity and all patients with concerns about their risks of having the disease and/or their prognosis if diagnosed, including the role of prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing, should discuss these with their doctor.

PSA testing has no proven value in the management of asymptomatic prostate cancer in men whose life expectancy is less than 7 years. Men in this age group often have co-morbidities that are likely to be of greater clinical significance than the risk of prostate cancer.


3) Do not perform population based screening for Vitamin D deficiency.

The quality of the evidence for the health benefits of an adequate vitamin D status is highly variable. As the main source of vitamin D is UVB sunlight exposure, vitamin D status as assessed by the measurement of 25 hydroxyvitamin D (25OH-D) is correlated with time spent outdoors, exercise and other aspects of a healthy lifestyle including body weight. Vitamin D insufficiency is associated with low levels of exercise, obesity and/or reduced sun light exposure, such as occur more commonly in the elderly, the overweight, the frail and unwell or institutionalised and where there are occupational, racial or cultural reasons.

In individuals at risk of vitamin D deficiency, measurement of 25OH-D is an appropriate, case-finding strategy. Routine screening of healthy infants, children and adults (including pregnant women) for vitamin D deficiency is currently not recommended.

Resources

4) Do not perform serum tumour marker tests except for the monitoring of a cancer known to produce these markers.

The measurement of levels of certain tumour biomarkers is known to be helpful in monitoring the progress of specific cancers in response to treatment or in detecting changes in cancer activity or secondary or recurring cancer. In some rare circumstances they are helpful adjuncts in detecting specific cancers, where there is a strong known underlying predisposition or suspicion, such as in detecting liver cancer in patients with chronic hepatitis C and cirrhosis. However the testing for a broad range of biomarkers in patients with non-specific symptoms in the hope of finding an undetected cancer is not supported by the evidence from numerous systematic reviews. Tumour markers generally should not be used in the initial diagnostic pathway and are rarely diagnostic due to low sensitivity and specificity


5) Do not routinely test and treat hyperlipidaemia in those with a limited life expectancy.

Measurement of lipid levels is part of absolute risk assessment for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. This remains true beyond age 75, but by this stage age becomes the predominant risk factor. Absolute risk calculators accommodate this trend by fixing 75 years as the maximum age that can be included in the calculation. Clinicians need to consider whether or not the assessment and treatment of risk factors beyond this age is likely to yield clinical benefit within the patient’s remaining life expectancy. On rare occasions lipid testing may provide relevant information in life threatening diseases, but in most critical illnesses lipid measurement for prevention of chronic disease will no longer be a priority.

Supporting evidence